The Psychological Impact Of Quarantine And How To Reduce It

A study has been published in the Lancet by Samantha K Brooks, Rebecca K Webster, Louise E Smith, Lisa Woodland, Prof Simon Wessely, Neil Greenberg. This study has assessed the psychological impact of quarantine on individuals.

What is Quarantine? How Is it different from Isolation?

Quarantine is the separation and restriction of movement of people who have potentially been exposed to a contagious disease to ascertain if they become unwell, so reducing the risk of them infecting others. This definition differs from isolation, which is the separation of people who have been diagnosed with a contagious disease from people who are not sick; however, the two terms are often used interchangeably, especially in communication with the public.

The word quarantine was first used in Venice, Italy in 1127 with regards to leprosy and was widely used in response to the Black Death, although it was not until 300 years later that the UK properly began to impose quarantine in response to plague. Most recently, quarantine has been used in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

Key messages
  • Information is key; people who are quarantined need to understand the situation
  • Effective and rapid communication is essential
  • Supplies (both general and medical) need to be provided
  • The quarantine period should be short and the duration should not be changed unless in extreme circumstances
  • Most of the adverse effects come from the imposition of a restriction of liberty; voluntary quarantine is associated with less distress and fewer long-term complications
  • Public health officials should emphasise the altruistic choice of self-isolating
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