The Difference between Isolation, Quarantine, and Monitoring for Ebola

By Edward K. Chapnick

Part of Ebola Myths & Facts For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When potential or known Ebola patients are identified, they can be placed under different levels of care and observation. The distinctions among isolation, quarantine, and monitoring can be a little confusing to remember, so here’s a rundown:

  • Isolation: This is the most serious of actions. Isolation’s used when someone is displaying Ebola-like symptoms and has an exposure history of having been in the affected areas or around a confirmed Ebola patient. The person is taken to a special unit within a special facility to receive care for as long as needed. Non-essential visitors aren’t allowed.

  • Quarantine: This is for people who have the exposure history, but aren’t displaying symptoms. They’re separated physically from others and aren’t allowed to leave their location for 21 days, which is the incubation period of Ebola. They may be tested throughout this time for fever and other signs of infection. If they display no symptoms after the incubation period, they’re cleared.

  • Monitoring: This is another option for folks who have the exposure history, but aren’t displaying symptoms. Monitoring for Ebola is more relaxed than a quarantine in that the people are allowed to carry on in their everyday lives like they normally would, but they may be subject to periodic testing over the course of the 21-day incubation period. And, they’re required to report any symptoms immediately.

Monitoring, rather than quarantining, is recommended.