What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?
The word ‘quarantine’ comes from the Italian word ‘quarantena’, meaning ‘forty’. The term was first used in the 14th-century during the Black Death plague when ships arriving in Venice were required to sit at anchor for forty days before the crew could go ashore.
‘Quarantine’ separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Thankfully it is no longer forty days.
‘Isolation’ separates sick people with a known contagious disease from people who are not sick.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 you will need to go into ‘isolation’, while those who have been in close contact with you will go into ‘quarantine’.
If you are notified that you have a positive result for COVID-19 you will be contacted by The Public Health Unit. Their immediate priority is contact tracing to prevent further spread in the community. They will assess who has been a ‘close contact’ with you while you were potentially infectious. Close contact is someone who has been in face to face contact with you for at least 15 minutes or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours.
‘Close contacts’ will be contacted and advised they need to go into quarantine. Those who have been in contact with you but are not ‘close contacts’ do not need to quarantine but are advised to monitor for any symptoms.
Public Health Unit will also try to work out how and where you were infected with COVID-19.
PHU will send you information on how to isolate via email. Please access the link below for more information . PHU will send you a text every day to monitor your symptoms. If you have any symptoms of concern, they will call you to see if you need further assessment. Your regular GP may also call to check on you. You may also make a telephone appointment with your GP at any time.
Around four in every five people who contract COVID-19 recover without needing to go to hospital. There is a range of symptoms and severity. Symptoms may include fever, dry cough, productive cough (less common), headache, abdominal pain with diarrhoea, loss of sense of smell, reduced appetite, aching muscles and fatigue.
Our greatest concern is that there may be a deterioration with shortness of breath due to viral pneumonia. This usually occurs around day 5 to 8 following the onset of symptoms and may require hospital admission. Around 1 in 5 of people with COVID-19 need to be admitted to hospital. This worsening may occur even after there has been an improvement in symptoms.
There may be another more serious deterioration and worsening breathing difficulties around day 12 following the onset of symptoms. This may require treatment in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and may include ventilation. Around 5% (1 in 20) of total cases need ICU treatment. Those with more severe symptoms may be unwell for three weeks or more before recovering.
Those who are at increased risk of becoming very unwell with COVID-19 are those who are older and/or those with chronic disease such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and cancer.
These are so far experimental and drugs being considered are rapidly changing. You will be offered the most up-to-date information available at the time.
If you have recovered, the PHU will advise when you are permitted to be released from isolation.
In general, you can be released if:
· at least 10 days have passed since the onset of first symptoms
· AND at least 72 hours have passed since the resolution of symptoms.
If you are a healthcare or aged care worker, you additionally require:
· No fever for 48 hours
· AND no symptoms for 24 hours
· AND at least seven days since onset of first symptoms
· AND two negative tests, collected at least 24 hours apart, after feeling well.
The PHU will write to your GP advising that you may be released from isolation. You will be asked to make an appointment with your GP after seven days to check on your recovery. You will also be invited to have a blood test to check your antibody levels. This test is still under development so your blood will be stored until the test is ready.
If you have household contacts and they have ongoing contact with you (e.g. sharing a bathroom, living area or other common areas), they will need to continue in quarantine for 14 days AFTER you have been released from isolation. CDC will be in regular contact with them and will advise when they can be released from quarantine. You can reduce this time by isolating from your household contacts while infectious (see link above on how to do this), however, it is not always practical to do this.
Australia is thankfully seeing a flattening of the curve at present. In order to maintain a lower number of cases, we all need to continue without ongoing care with social distancing and good hand hygiene.