In-home quarantines are rare. Although this power has always been in the legal arsenal of a community's public health officer, it isn't something that is entered into lightly. Here are some things to consider about medical quarantine:
- Obviously if you can stay away from someone who is likely to need to be quarantined (someone with a contagious, usually deadly, disease) you will be better off, however, as you can see in this case, no one knew about the man's condition until he was quite ill so that means that all of the people on his plane, in his home, in his workplace, in his neighborhood, et al. were unknowingly exposed.
- It's one thing to quarantine people in a hospital, but when there are large groups of infected or possibly infected people, quarantining them in their home is a more viable option unless they need critical medical care.
- Being quarantined has legal repercussions. If someone in power (in this case it was probably someone from the city health department or someone from the CDC) quarantines someone and tells them where they need to stay (ie: in their home) they have the full force of the law behind them.
- People who are quarantined, on the other hand, have a penchant for trying to escape (thus the legal guard as noted in the article above).
- It is in the best interest of everyone that people with a contagious illness (whether the flu or Ebola or any other disease) isolate themselves from the general public to avoid spreading disease. Most people, however, don't have everyone else's best interest in mind in these situations (note how many people go to work when they are contagious during cold and flu season).
Do you have an in-home quarantine plan? Since this sort of thing could happen to anyone at anytime, here are some preparedness tips:
- Have a month's worth of food stockpiled.
- Have a month's worth of other supplies stockpiled (toilet paper, baby diapers if you have a baby, medication, cleaning supplies, etc)
- Have a plan for your work/income (can you work from home, how will you pay your bills, how will you do banking, etc).
- Have the means to keep yourself and your family entertained (most people can't even imagine not leaving their home for an entire month).
- Have the means to take basic care of yourself and your family (ie: monitoring medical conditions, providing basic health care, etc).
More resources on isolation and quarantine: