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In the absence of rapid and definitive diagnostic tests, vaccines, or cures, isolation and quarantine remain public health's best strategy against the spread of communicable diseases. These strategies were historically used for the large-scale epidemics of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, but more recently as an individual strategy that is carried out in a quiet, small-scale manner, out of public view.

Recent events and concern about the deliberate release of biological agents such as plague and anthrax or the spread of emerging diseases such as pandemic influenza and SARS have changed the context of public health preparedness. Proactively planning for and managing the implementation of a large-scale isolation and quarantine has once again become part of public health's fundamental responsibility.

Seattle & King County Advanced Practice Center