What’s the Difference? And Is A “Hold Order” as Effective as a “Quarantine”?
March 2006

To read the use of the term “quarantine” as applied to large animals in the Maryland Annotated Code, please visit www.equiery.com and visit the Herpes Health Crises Update section.

Both A Legal and Medical Term 
In the context of the code of Maryland, the word “quarantine” is a legal term, according to Maryland state veterinarian Guy Hohenhaus. And although it’s not mentioned in the code, the term “Hold Order” – which was coined by the Maryland Department of Agriculture – is legalese, too, “because it’s the Secretary of Agriculture exercising his quarantine authority, basically.”

As he goes on to explain, the word “quarantine,” while generally understood in the legal sense, has a somewhat questionable scientific definition. Originally, it was defined as a restriction on movement for 40 days – something used with ships coming into port when plague and cholera were common.

“So the word ‘quarantine’ in the strict [modern] medical sense is the restriction on movement put on somebody or an animal that you have reason to believe has an increased risk of exposure (to infectious and contagious disease),” he says. “You make them wait through one-plus incubation period, and then say, I guess they don’t have it – or they had it, but it’s over now.”

This restriction also covers complete isolation, Hohenhaus says, which is what is done to a person or animal that is known (not just suspected) to be sick.

Thus, when it is said that the Secretary has the right to quarantine, it means that he and his agents at the Maryland Department of Agriculture have the right to restrict movement according to good scientific practices for infectious and contagious diseases .

“That’s what our legislation says – we just try not to use the ‘q’ word, if we can avoid it, because everyone else misuses it, and it had bad connotations,” Hohenhaus comments. Instead, the MDA generally uses the term “Hold Order,” he explains. “We introduced some additional nuance into it because we’ve learned … that if you start throwing the ‘quarantine’ word around … it generally causes overreaction.

“We’ve had pretty good luck with the [terms] Investigational Hold Order and Hold Order,” he continues, adding that other states who’ve also had problems with the term “quarantine” have asked, ” ‘Hey, where’d you get that idea?’ ”

Levels of Restriction: A Matter of Extent – and Stakes
Hohenhaus goes on the explain that the Hold Orders placed on those barns with equine herpes fall under the category of the Secretary’s “Special Quarantine” authority. “That’s a legal definition that pertains to individual, small lots – a barn, a farm, a cluster of barns,” he says.

Beyond that, he says, the Secretary can quarantine large blocs of land, right up to the whole state – and the higher the stakes, the more probable the governor’s involvement. A restriction at this level is likely to be referred to as a “General Quarantine.”

Hold Orders are basically divided into Investigational Hold Orders and General Animal Hold Orders, Hohenhaus continues. “The Investigational Hold Order is just a temporary Special Quarantine that you use when you have reason to believe that you’re dealing with a disease, but you haven’t confirmed that,” he explains, adding that it generally lasts a week, or however long it takes to get test results back. If the diagnostic information is already there, however, the investigational stage is skipped in favor of a General Animal Hold Order, which lasts a specified amount of time. “But ultimately, we’re still exercising the Secretary’s quarantine authority,” he stresses.

As for what was imposed on Pimlico by the Maryland Jockey Club, that was not technically a quarantine, Hohenhaus says, because a “quarantine” has a very specific legal definition as described above, and can only be imposed by certain authorities (including the Secretary of Agriculture). “Perhaps a more appropriate term would be ‘self-imposed restriction on movement’ or ‘lockdown,’ ” he suggests.