The difference between Quarantine and Isolation:


Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

Understanding Quarantine and Isolation

  • Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine
    • Fact sheet: defines isolation and quarantine; lists the communicable diseases for which federal isolation and quarantine are authorized by Executive Order; describes the authorities of federal, state, local, and tribal laws; defines who is in charge, CDC’s role, and enforcement measures.

Travel Restriction and Intervention Activities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, has implemented Federal travel restriction procedures to protect travelers and the public from communicable diseases that constitute a public health threat.

At the request of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, persons who have a communicable disease constituting a public health threat, in addition to meeting specified criteria may be placed on the Do Not Board list and issued a Border Lookout, enforced by the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection, respectively.

For additional information and further guidance, health departments should contact the quarantine station in their jurisdiction. Please refer to the contact information found on the quarantine station contact list. For more background and a summary of the Federal air travel restrictions, please refer to Federal Air Travel Restrictions for Public Health Purposes – United States, June 2007 – May 2008, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on September 19, 2008.

Quarantine and Isolation in Perspective

History of Quarantine

Brief article describes how the concept of quarantine grew from a 14th century effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics up to the present state of the quarantine system in our nation today.Page last reviewed: January 27, 2020Content source: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNational Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ)

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