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How to Self-Quarantine After Being Exposed to a Disease

Would you know what to do if you were exposed to a disease, whether it was measles or COVID-19, and were told to self-quarantine?

Quarantine Sign

After someone in New Hampshire went to an invitation only private event, exposing others to SARS-CoV-2, after he was told to self-quarantine, it’s obvious that some folks either don’t know or don’t care.

How to Self-Quarantine After Being Exposed to a Disease

To be clear, quarantines can be important to help prevent the spread of communicable disease.

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

CDC on Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine

To be effective, the person in quarantine has to isolate themselves from other people until they pass the incubation period for the disease, so that they don’t get sick and then get others sick.

Under self-quarantine, you stay home, avoid other people, and monitor yourself for symptoms.

Being in self-quarantine brings up some important questions.

Who is being put into self-quarantine?

So far, the biggest group is those folks returning from areas with widespread or ongoing community spread.

The University of Connecticut is requiring 90 students returning from study abroad programs in Italy and South Korea to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus.

UConn Students Returning From Italy, South Korea Must Self-Quarantine: School

How long do you stay in self-quarantine?

Your time in self-quarantine depends on the disease that you are being quarantined for. In the case of measles or chickenpox, for example, you would stay in quarantine for up to 21 days. For COVID-19, it is only 14 days.

Can you self-quarantine in a home with other people?

Not surprisingly, you can self-quarantine in a home with other people, but you don’t want to mix with those other people or share any household items. That means staying in your own room and using your own bathroom.

The CDC has given tips on self-quarantine for those who might have been exposed to COVID-19.
The CDC has given tips on self-quarantine for those who might have been exposed to COVID-19.

You should also carefully clean any surfaces that you touch while in quarantine.

And be sure to call ahead and wear a mask if you have to seek medical attention.

What Happens if You Violate Your Self-Quarantine?

Remember though, the point of self-quarantine is to avoid contact with other people, so you don’t want to:

  • order food or groceries and have contact with the delivery person (have them leave the delivery outside the door)
  • watch TV or eat dinner with your roommates while you are in self-quarantine
  • leave quarantine to go to a party or the gym
  • leave quarantine to go to work or school

What happens if you violate your quarantine?

“A Brookfield couple will pay fines for violating a quarantine order that could have exposed others to the measles. Jeffrey Murawski and Christine Bennett pleaded no contest in court Monday. Police say Bennett drove Murawski to a gym while he was under quarantine.”

Couple to pay fine for violating quarantine order

In addition of the risk that you could get others sick, breaking quarantine could put you at risk of fines and/or imprisonment.

What’s the Difference Between Quarantine Vs Isolation

In the case of COVID-19, most people understand that they are supposed to:

  • self-quarantine for 14 days after their last exposure to someone with COVID-19
  • isolate for at least 10 days after they begin having symptoms or test positive for COVID-19

But what’s the difference?

One difference is that the 14 day quarantine is for the incubation period for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That’s how long it might take someone to become infected after they are exposed.

And the 10 day isolation is for the amount of time that someone is contagious when they are sick with COVID-19.

“Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others.
Isolation keeps someone who is infected with the virus away from others, even in their home.”

Quarantine or isolation: What’s the difference?

The other big difference is that basically, isolation is a stricter form of quarantine.

“In the home, anyone sick or infected should separate themselves from others by staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom (if available).”

Isolate If You Are Sick

When you are in isolation, you make every effort to stay away from everyone, even in your own home.

But isn’t that what you do when you are in quarantine?

While you do try to avoid others whether you are in quarantine or isolation, again, it is about how aggressive you are. For example, in quarantine, you might go to the kitchen with your mask on, but you wouldn’t do that if you were in isolation.

More on Isolation and Quarantine

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