Ebola: Quarantine Policy

For our purposes, there are two kinds of quarantines, with two different purposes. There are probably more specific terms to refer to what I'm talking about, but everyone basically understands the idea of a quarantine.

Quarantine for Disease Containment

This is the classic quarantine - a patient that is known  or suspected to be carrying an infectious disease is isolated and kept with minimum contact with other people until:
1. The disease is identified as being non-threatening
2. It is proven the patient is not carrying a dangerous disease
3. The symptoms (and disease) are resolved successfully (either through treatment or naturally with time) such that the patient is no longer infectious
4. The Patient dies

In the case of Ebola, many people who have had contact with known Ebola cases are being quarantined. It's not known if they are carrying it, but simply remaining quarantined for more than three weeks will conclusively rule out infection. Or, if they ARE infected, they will have been kept from infecting more people. But, because these individuals are at a higher risk of having been infected they are placed under quarantine.

Based on risk of infection, there are two basic recomendations for quarantine:

1. Quarantine for low risk of infection

It is my recommendation that if a family member starts showing Ebola-like symptom you impose a partial quarantine until you rule out Ebola. It's probably just a cold or the flu, but stay home and recover.

2. Quarantine for high risk of infection

Now, if the Ebola spreads in America, and there's a real possibility you've come in contact with Ebola, and you develop symptoms then you need in have a very firm quarantine until you either rule out or confirm Ebola. This means no visitors, no going out, and isolation from other family members. Hospitals are probably the best place to seek Ebola treatment right now, but if this becomes a major crisis it's likely the hospitals will start to be overwhelmed, and you may be better off attempting care at home.

Caretakers of a potentially Ebola infected person need to be kept to a bare minimum and PPE must be worn at all times.

Quarantine to prevent becoming infected (shelter in place)

Another reason to isolate yourself or your family is if there are known cases of Ebola in your area and you want to avoid the possibility of becoming infected.

Ideally, you avoid all outside contact until there have been no cases in your area for at least 42 days (double the incubation time of Ebola). Of course, the ideal and the possible are rarely the same. Also, an Ebola Epidemic is not a binary event, either "on" or "off", but something that can grow or shrink in terms of danger for you and your family. One case of Ebola in a city of a million people is still less of a risk than driving your car, so some precautions will probably only be practical to implement if cases of Ebola become very wide spread and near your area of operations.  

  • You need to treat your home or property as a secure, clean environment and the world outside as a hot zone.
  • Nothing enters your home unless it's been disinfected first.
  • Contact with strangers is minimized as much as possible.
  • Everyone going out wears PPE (dependant on the situation) and is disinfected upon returning.