Social distancing

reduction of human social interaction in an effort to prevent the spread of infectious disease

Social distancing, also less confusingly called physical distancing is one way to help stop the spread of infection from viruses and bacteria between people. The goal is to lower the chance for an infection to spread from person to person. This can reduce the number of infected people at one time, which lowers the burden on health care. By lowering the number of people who get sick, lives can also be saved.[1][2]

People queuing in front of a shop, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, in Spain

Social distancing works for infections that are spread by droplets (cough or sneeze), physical contact, contaminated surfaces, or in the air.[3] Social distancing does not work well for infections that are spread through food, water, or insects.[4]

Types of social distancing are:

All of these may have negative effects on people.[12][13][14] However, these may be preferred to the effects of a specific disease.


  1. Johnson, Carolyn Y.; Sun, Lena; Freedman, Andrew (2020-03-10). "Social distancing could buy U.S. valuable time against coronavirus". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  2. Pandemic Planning – Social Distancing Fact Sheet
  3. "Information about Social Distancing" Archived 2020-03-27 at the Wayback Machine, Santa Clara Public Health Department.
  4. "Interim Pre-Pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States—Early, Targeted, Layered Use of Nonpharmaceutical Interventions", CDC, February 2007
  5. Chin TD, Foley JF, Doto IL, Gravelle CR, Weston J (1960). "Morbidity and mortality characteristics of Asian strain influenza". Public Health Reports. 75 (2): 148–58. doi:10.2307/4590751. JSTOR 4590751. PMC 1929395. PMID 19316351.
  6. Wheeler CC, Erhart LM, Jehn ML (2010). "Effect of school closure on the incidence of influenza among school -age children in Arizona". Public Health Reports. 125 (6): 851–859. doi:10.1177/003335491012500612. PMC 2966666. PMID 21121230.
  7. Walsh, Eric, ed. (20 July 2009). "Closing schools won't stop pandemics: study". Reuters. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  8. Rousculp MD, Johnston SS, Palmer LA, Chu BC, Mahadevia PJ, Nichol KL (2010). "Attending work while sick: implication of flexible sick leave policies". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 52 (10): 1009–1013. doi:10.1097/jom.0b013e3181f43844. PMID 20881626. S2CID 11591504.
  9. Teh B, Olsen K, Black J, Cheng AC, Aboltins C, Bull K, et al. (2012). "Impact of swine influenza and quarantine measures on patients and households during the H1N1/09 pandemic". Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases. 44 (4): 289–296. doi:10.3109/00365548.2011.631572. PMID 22106922. S2CID 24255689.
  10. Ishola DA, Phin N (2011). "Could influenza transmission be reduced by restricting mass gatherings? Towards an evidence-based policy framework". Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health. 1 (1): 33–60. doi:10.1016/j.jegh.2011.06.004. PMC 7104184. PMID 23856374.
  11. Ferguson NM, Cummings DA, Fraser C, Cajka JC, Cooley PC, Burke DS (2006). "Strategies for mitigating an influenza pandemic". Nature. 442 (7101): 448–52. Bibcode:2006Natur.442..448F. doi:10.1038/nature04795. PMC 7095311. PMID 16642006.
  12. Zumla, Alimuddin; Yew, Wing-Wai; Hui, David S. C. (2010). Emerging Respiratory Infections in the 21st Century, An Issue of Infectious Disease Clinics. Vol. 24. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 614. ISBN 978-1-4557-0038-7.
  13. Brooks, Samantha K.; Webster, Rebecca K.; Smith, Louise E.; Woodland, Lisa; Wessely, Simon; Greenberg, Neil; Rubin, Gideon James (2020-03-14). "The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence". The Lancet. 395 (10227): 912–920. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8. ISSN 0140-6736. PMC 7158942. PMID 32112714.
  14. Emily Arntsen, "Closing borders can delay, but can't stop the spread of COVID-19, new report says", News@Northeastern, March 6, 2020.

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