Detention of humans or animals suspected to have communicable disease until they are proved free of infection. The term is often used interchangeably with isolation (separation of a known infected individual from healthy ones until the danger of transmission passes). It derives from the 40-day (quarantina) isolation period instituted in an attempt to prevent spread of plague in the Middle Ages. Though appropriate in some cases (e.g., diphtheria), it is ineffective for diseases that are spread by other means (e.g., plague) or are contagious before symptoms appear. In some cases, contacts (e.g., the family of a hepatitis patient) are notified, educated on precautions, and monitored for development of illness. Quarantine is more often applied to animals (e.g., for rabies).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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