What’s the Fuss About Ebola Self Quarantine?

I don’t get the fuss over wanting people to self-quarantine themselves if they’ve been to, come from or passed through any area that has or has the potential to have, Ebola-like cases. What’s the big deal?

I recall when SARS was seemingly running rampant back about 10 years ago (give or take) that one of the instructions was that if you were in contact with – or could have come in contact with – anyone who may have SARS-like symptoms to stay home for a few days to monitor yourself. You even had to call into a hotline and report yourself. It wasn’t a big deal back then and maybe that’s because it was limited for the most part to just a couple of cities (Toronto, Vancouver and a city in China I forget at the moment).

The news media was sure it was one of the best ways to prevent the spread – and the public agreed – but that feeling seems to have changed now. Back then I don’t recall any major ‘freak-out’s’ about people’s rights to do what they want; it seems to be an accepted method to protect people. What changed?

Now it doesn’t seem to be an accepted method of mitigation and monitoring. Even those I know that were for it during SARS are not for it now but there’s no real reason for it. Oh, the ‘people have the right to do this or that’ crops up allot but I don’t hear any concrete reason.

If someone is ill it’s natural to keep them away from healthy people, as they could have the potential to get others sick; in the home, general public and in the workplace. Remember when some events were cancelled out of fear that SARS could spread through large crowds? Remember that that is a potential risk mitigation strategy to be leveraged by local governments to ensure the spread of an infectious disease doesn’t envelope the entire community?

Maybe it’s because Ebola can’t be caught by passing someone on the street or caught through an airborne contagion. Not like the cold or the flu, which can be caught that way.

It’s a mixed message isn’t it? On one hand we’re being told to stay home if we’re sick and voluntarily monitor ourselves and the other hand says there’s nothing to fear. So if there’s nothing to fear, why do I have to stay home if I think I might have caught something? Sure, I will stay home when I’m actually sick but not if I ‘think’ I might get sick. Gee, there wouldn’t be a reason to leave the house if that were the case.

And for businesses, they must be wondering about their staff sniffling as the walk down the hall. Are they bringing something into the building? Will my staff all get sick – or worse? Panic! Panic! Panic! And unnecessarily so.

What do I recommend? Go about your life and worry about taking care of yourself when you are actually sick. Don’t put yourself into dangerous situations – like walking through an Ebola hospital with no protective clothing and if you manage a business, continue to monitor things but don’t let it impact your life. When there’s an impact on your operations – or about to have an impact – then ensure that by then you have the right policies, processes, protocols and procedures in place to deal with it. That includes ensuring you have things in place to help any sick staff.

But voluntarily self-quarantine? Well, you do that when you’re sick because you want to get better. There isn’t any real benefit to keep someone locked in their home when they aren’t sick.


© StoneRoad 2014

A.Alex Fullick has over 18 years’ experience working in Business Continuity and is the author of numerous books, including “Heads in the Sand” and “BIA: Building the Foundation for a Strong Business Continuity Program.”

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