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County Boards of Health Have Powers to Institute Quarantines November 4, 2009

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County Boards of Health Have Powers to Institute Quarantines
SHELLEY HANSON
TheIntelligencer.net
October 20, 2009


Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, holds old signs related to quarantines and other public health rules.

WHEELING, Ohio – Before vaccines were a common tool to fight the spread of disease, health officials had another method of keeping germs at bay – quarantines.

And though they may not need to use a quarantine this flu season, county boards of health have the power to implement one if necessary. The Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health recently was reminded of its quarantine powers, now that the swine, or H1N1, flu is here.

Administrator Howard Gamble said it is likely the measure only would be used if there were large numbers of people dying in the community. As a protective measure, people may be told stay at home; in other cases, they may be told to refrain from large gatherings, such as a football game, to help prevent further spread of a disease like the swine flu.

“I hope we don’t have to do it,” Gamble said.

He noted he can remember old photographs showing quarantine signs on people’s homes. Stashed away in a drawer in Gamble’s office is an old sign related to a quarantine. It states: “Notice to milkman. A case of communicable disease exists in this house. Bottles of milk are not permitted to be left here. Householders may place outside jars or pitchers into which milk may be poured. This card shall be removed only by the health department.”

According to West Virginia Code 16-3-2, refusing to obey a quarantine order can result in a misdemeanor charge and fines of up to $200. A quarantine can be implemented to prevent the introduction of a disease into a community or prevent the spread of a disease.

The board can confine an infected person or person liable to spread infection to their residence. If they do not have a home in the county, a place will be provided for them. If necessary, the board can “summon sufficient guard for the enforcement of their orders in the premises.”

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