What’s the point of quarantine?

I’ve reached an important milestone: the first case of Pig Aids swine flu among people I know.  It’s quite exciting.

She’s been told to stay in, avoiding contact with others, for five days by one person, for 10 by another.  I’m wondering why this is.

In the early days of the illness, there might have been a point.  When we were dealing with a few tens of sniffly people, it might have been possible to contain the virus (assuming, of course, that we were willing also to close all ports and build a big glass dome over the UK just in case).  For the sake of public protection, there might have been some warrant for this.  Let’s not forget, of course, that not so long ago we were much more worried that’d it’d be a really serious illness – much more serious than it would appear to be at the moment.

But, at this stage, I’m wondering whether quarantine is any use – or justified at all.  Apparently, there were an estimated 50 thousand new cases in the UK last week.  Why quarantine someone to contain a disease that’s infecting fifty thousand a week?  That does seem a bit pointless.  Even if the worst predictions about the disease come true – the Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales predicts up to 65 000 UK deaths, but even that’s deaths associated with , not from, H1N1 – it’s hard to see how keeping people sort-of-isolated (until they’ve run out of coffee and have to nip to the shops, at least) would make any difference at all.

Actually – it will make a difference, come to think of it.  It’ll cause unnecessary worry and distress.


Besides – isn’t quarantine 40 days, by definition?

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