Difference Between Isolation and Quarantine

Isolation is a disease control technique for people or animals that have a contagious disease. Quarantine is a method of disease control for humans or animals that are not infected but have been exposed to the disease.

Both are common public health measures in cases of epidemics and pandemics, for example the coronavirus or COVID-19 in the year 2020.


It is a sanitary measure that deals with distancing people or animals with a contagious disease to prevent its spread. This term only applies when the person who is separated or isolated already has the disease.

In the 1987 publication of the Universal Precautions of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, it is considered that (all patients and their body fluids are considered potentially infectious and the necessary measures must be taken to prevent transmission from occurring), referring not only to HIV, but to other infectious-contagious diseases, such as hepatitis or another that can be transmitted to health personnel or to the rest of the patients.

Types of insulation

There are various types of hospital isolation, depending on the pathogens involved, they are the following:

Respiratory isolation

Known as droplet isolation, it refers to the separation measures for those patients who could infect other people through their saliva, either by talking, coughing or sneezing.

Respiratory isolation is applied in patients with influenza, pulmonary tuberculosis, measles, whooping cough, rubella, meningococcus, mycoplasma pneumonia or diphtheria.

Enteric isolation

They are hospital measures taken to prevent the spread of pathogens found in fecal material or objects used by the patient.

Enteric isolation is appropriate in cases of bacterial gastroenteritis, amebiasis, viral meningitis, giardiasis, and cholera.

Protective insulation

It is the hospital measure that is followed with immunosuppressed patients, who due to their condition need to avoid outside contact to protect their immune system.

Protective isolation is used in cases of severe burns, transplants, chemotherapy or HIV patients whose health is deteriorating.

 Contact insulation

It refers to the separation of patients with pathologies that can be transmitted by contact with the skin or with objects that have been handled by the infected person.

Contact isolation is applied in patients with pediculosis (lice), rotavirus gastroenteritis, hepatitis A, congenital rubella, multi-resistant germs, impetigo and scabies.


It is a form of separation for healthy people, but who may be exposed to the agents that cause the contagious disease.

With this protocol it is possible to rectify if the separated people are actually healthy or if they are carriers of the disease. In this case, they would go to hospital isolation depending on the type of pathology they have.

Types of quarantine

There are two types of quarantine:

Voluntary quarantine

They are protective measures that healthy people put into practice to avoid being infected, or those who suspect they might have the disease so as not to infect others.

In the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic, many people decided to self-quarantine in different parts of the world, essentially those who had traveled or been in contact with people from the most affected countries.

Mandatory or general quarantine

It is a measure imposed by local or national authorities together with health authorities and in which different mandatory compliance measures are decreed for people. These measures apply the restriction of movement within the city, the closure of borders, the limitation or suspension of international flights, among others.

Difference between Isolation and Quarantine in tabular form

Isolation Quarantine
Definition Sanitary measure applied to people or animals with contagious diseases. Preventive measure applied to healthy people or animals, but at risk of contracting a disease.
Types respiratory isolation. 

Enteric isolation.

Protective insulation.

contact insulation.

Voluntary quarantine. 

Mandatory or general quarantine.

Who is it for? Sick people or animals. Healthy people or animals, or failing that, that do not yet show symptoms.
where it is fulfilled In public or private health centers. Usually at home.

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