Quarantine Law and Legal Definition

Quarantine means an enforced isolation or restriction of free movement imposed upon a vehicle, person, or material suspected of carrying a contagious disease for a certain period of time to prevent the spread of contagious disease. The practice of quarantining people is referenced as far back as the quarantine of lepers in biblical times and the quarantine of ships in European harbors for weeks before passengers could disembark because of fear of plague during the Crusades. Some states and countries require pets to be quarantined upon entering its borders to prevent the spread of rabies. Statutes exist for quarantine of livestock and other animals and insects suspected of carrying disease.

States are responsible for regulating public health, but the president can order a quarantine if there is danger that disease could spread across state lines. President Bush recently added severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the mysterious illness that began in China, to the list of diseases for which a quarantine could be ordered by the U.S. government. Growing fears of biological or chemical attacks by terrorists have a number of states to update outmoded quarantine laws that allow governments to confine people against their will during a health crisis.