We all are hearing and reading about contact tracing which, when combined with social distancing, has proven a powerful asset in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
But, what doe it mean? Well, it means assigning a “contact tracer” who will interview each person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The contact tracer, with the help of painstaking and quick detective work, finds out who else might have already acquired the virus from the infectious person, or been exposed.
Close contacts of a person who might have COVID-19 can then be isolated (if sick) or quarantined (if well) to lessen the further spread of the virus.
The contact tracer will also focus on in case any contact who may be in a higher-risk group, such as older or immuno-compromised people.
This technique has also been used to better understand and limit the spread of HIV, meningitis and other diseases.
It is a powerful tool discovered almost a century ago to limit the spread of infections diseases.
The COVID-19 virus is located in the respiratory tract and is spread when someone sneezes or coughs, dispersing infected droplets.
Several people can be infected from one COVID-19 positive person, even by later entering a room and touching contaminated objects.
So contact tracing under these circumstances is challenging. The droplet spreader will have to recall his or her movements very carefully.
The contact tracer will be especially interested to know:
who has this confirmed case met or talked with recently? Was it inside or outside?
who have they sat near, for example in a lecture hall, office or other enclosed space?
have they been to a big event like a marriage ceromony or any kind of meeting.
Close contacts are those who have had face-to-face contact with a confirmed case for a period more than 15 minutes, or those who have shared an enclosed space with a confirmed case for more than two hours.
They are not looking for people the person may have passed on the street or in a shop, as the risk in these situations is extremely low.
In case anyone has been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of novel coronavirus you need to self-quarantine for 14 days from your last contact with them.
If you become unwell during that period, see a doctor immediately.