The economic impact of quarantine: SARS in Toronto as a case study

  • Anu G. Gupta
    Affiliations
    Global REACH, University of Michigan Medical School, 7C 06 NIB, P.O. Box 0429, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0429, USA
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  • Cheryl A. Moyer
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-734-998-6827; fax: +1-734-998-6105.
    Affiliations
    Global REACH, University of Michigan Medical School, 7C 06 NIB, P.O. Box 0429, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0429, USA
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  • David T. Stern
    Affiliations
    Global REACH, University of Michigan Medical School, 7C 06 NIB, P.O. Box 0429, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0429, USA

    Departments of Medicine and Medical Education, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

    Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Hospital, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
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      Abstract

      Objectives

      Over time, quarantine has become a classic public health intervention and has been used repeatedly when newly emerging infectious diseases have threatened to spread throughout a population. Here, we weigh the economic costs and benefits associated with implementing widespread quarantine in Toronto during the SARS outbreaks of 2003.

      Methods

      We compared the costs of two outbreak scenarios: in Scenario A, SARS is able to transmit itself throughout a population without any significant public health interventions. In Scenario B, quarantine is implemented early on in an attempt to contain the virus. By evaluating these situations, we can investigate whether or not the use of quarantine is justified by being either cost-saving, life saving, or both.

      Results

      Our results indicate that quarantine is effective in containing newly emerging infectious diseases, and also cost saving when compared to not implementing a widespread containment mechanism.

      Conclusions

      This paper illustrates that it is not only in our humanitarian interest for public health and healthcare officials to remain aggressive in their response to newly emerging infections, but also in our collective economic interest. Despite somewhat daunting initial costs, quarantine saves both lives and money.

      Keywords

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