(WFLA) — As more people test positive for coronavirus in Tampa Bay, health officials are working to trace the contacts of every positive case, although it’s been a struggle.
While wearing masks and avoiding large groups can help curb the spread of the virus, contact tracing is another tool that’s cruicial in limiting the virus’ reach.
Contact tracing has been used for decades by health departments to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
“For the most part, Americans are not keen on sharing even more information about themselves. So even if only a relatively small percentage of the contacts that you give me are willing to to respond on the phone, and I can advise them and warn them, even that makes a difference. It helps to push the curve down. The more people who are advised that they may be at risk, that they may be exposed, let them get tested, and make sure that if you have any symptoms at all you should self isolate. This is a slow, complex process,” said Jay Wolfson, Professor of public health, Medicine and Pharmacy and Senior Associate Dean at the Morsani College of Medicine.
According to the CDC, Contact tracing for COVID-19 typically involves:
- Interviewing people with COVID-19 to identify everyone they had close contact with during the time they may have been infectious
- Notifying contacts of their potential exposure
- Referring contacts for testing
- Monitoring contacts for signs and symptoms of COVID-19
- Connecting contacts with services they might need during the self-quarantine period
Contact tracing includes the following steps:
- Case investigation: Public health staff work with a patient to help them recall everyone they have had close contact with during the time they may have been infectious.
- Contact tracing: Public health staff begin contact tracing by notifying exposed people (contacts) of their potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible, not revealing the infected patient’s identity.
- Contact support: Contacts are provided with education, information, and support to help them understand their risk, what they should do to separate themselves from others who are not exposed, and how to monitor themselves for illness. In addition, they are informed of the possibility that they could spread the infection to others even if they do not feel ill.
- Self-quarantine: Contacts are encouraged to stay home, monitor their health, and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others until 14 days after their last exposure to the infected patient, in case they also become ill.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, a public health worker may call you to discuss who you’ve been in contact with, and ask where you spent time while you may have been infectious.
“Contact tracers are supposed to tell you what their name is, what their phone number is, and they are supposed to give you some other identifying information. You can call them back if you’d like. There are a lot of scammers out there these days. Give nobody your social security number, give nobody personal information. Don’t give anybody your credit card information,” said Wolfson.
For more information from the CDC click here.