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To Quarantine or Not to Quarantine: Ebola and the Constitution - Government Practice News

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Government Practice News

Posted on: Nov 18, 2014

By Anne O'Connor, Office of the Indiana Attorney General

Quarantine and government-imposed isolation periods are not a concept that most of us are familiar with as American citizens. United States public health officials have used such methods in the past, but you must look back to the end of World War I for the last large-scale quarantine of healthy people due to the Spanish Flu epidemic and the 1950s with the large-scale isolation of polio patients.

Recent events surrounding the Ebola disease have placed the issues of quarantine back into the headlines.The efforts of nurse Kaci Hickox to fight quarantine in New Jersey and an isolation order in her home state of Maine has highlighted the fact that not all American citizens are willing to cooperate with such restrictions on their freedom. This article outlines the legal authority to impose quarantines at the federal level and the possible constitutional limitations on carrying out such orders.

This post was written by Anne O'Connor, Office of the Indiana Attorney General. If you would like to submit content or write an article for the Young Lawyers Division page, please email Mary Kay Price at


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