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Isolating visibly ill patients is very effective in controlling in the spread of an infection, not as much when infected people do not show symptoms

Isolating visibly ill patients is very effective in controlling in the spread of an infection, not as much when infected people do not show symptoms Isolating visibly ill patients is very effective in controlling in the spread of an infection, not as much when infected people do not show symptoms
Source: Tomasz Bolek via designideas
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If there is no effective vaccine or treatment for an infection, health agencies have two basic options to reduce the spread of infection: make sure people with disease symptoms are properly isolated, and trace the people with whom patients have recently come into contact so they can be tested for the disease.

During the SARS outbreak, many infected people reduced their movements and social interactions, helping to bring the epidemic under control. Analyzing the SARS outbreak using mathematical models, the researchers found that isolating patients had proven very effective in controlling in the infection. Many infected people reduced their movements and social interactions too, which also helped to bring the epidemic under control.

The World Health Organization declared the SARS epidemic to be under control on 5 July 2003. But the Imperial College researchers still wanted to know why isolation had been so successful and whether it would work for other infections too. The group developed a mathematical model to see how much isolating patients affected disease transmission and found that the effectiveness depended not just on the reproduction number but also on the proportion of infections that occur before symptoms appear.

During the SARS outbreak, people were most infectious after they became visibly ill. This is why isolation was effective: once people with symptoms were contained, there were very few opportunities for infection. The situation is very different for influenza, where people without symptoms are responsible for a large chunk of infections. In a flu outbreak, isolation and quarantine will be less effective because there is a good chance the patient will have infected others before they became ill.

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Source : The calculus of contagion, 16 September 2014, Aeon.co

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