The practice of isolation or quarantine – the separation of the diseased from the healthy – has been around for a long time. Quarantine periods can vary in length and can be very short, such as in the case of a suspected anthrax attack, in which persons are allowed to leave as soon as they shed their potentially contaminated garments and undergo a contamination shower or can last for extended periods.
Anti-biotic resistant bacteria such as the intestinal infection called C.difficile is considered to be a problem in many hospitals and some of the isolation rooms are occupied by patients harboring these germs.
People can be infected with dangerous diseases in numerous ways. Some germs are passed from animals or insects to humans, others are carried to people from contaminated food or water and still others are transferred directly from person to person.
Quarantine applies to those who have been exposed to a contagious disease and may or may not become ill, whereas isolation applies to persons who are known to be infected with a contagious disease.