Daily, we hear that extensive testing and contract tracing are the keys to reigning in the spread of COVID-19. Testing makes sense. There are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19, viral tests and antibody tests. The viral tests check to see if you have an active infection, this is usually done with a nasal swab. The antibody test shows whether or not you’ve had a past infection, this is done with a finger prick. Simple right?
Contact tracing seems a bit more complex than a yes or no answer. What does a contract tracer actually do?
What is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who may have come into contact with an infected person or “contacts.” But, it also involves following these contacts and the subsequent collection of further information about their contacts. Tracing the contacts of infected individuals, testing them for infection, then isolating or treating infected contacts, will reduce infections in the population as a whole.
History of Contact Tracing
Contact tracing is not a new thing. It has been around for many years as a tool to prevent the spread of various diseases. Traditionally, it was used to track tuberculosis infections, vaccine-preventable infections like measles, and sexually transmitted infections (including HIV). However, it is also useful in tracing more unfamiliar blood-borne infections, Ebola, some serious bacterial infections, and of course novel infections like COVID-19.
Communicable disease control in public health has utilized contact tracing for decades. A common example is the eradication of smallpox. This elimination is not attributable to universal immunization but to extensive contact tracing and isolation of infected individuals. Once individuals were isolated, they immunized the surrounding community and contacts that were considered at-risk of contracting smallpox.
Goals of Contact Tracing
A contact tracer is a detective in a way. They work with patients that have tested positive for, in this case, COVID-19. Working with the patients to recall everyone they had close contact with during the time frame they were infectious.
Contract tracing has multiple goals associated with the practice. The main goal is to prevent the spread of an infectious disease. Simultaneously, it is used to alert contacts to the possibility of infection. Then offer preventive services including diagnosis, counseling and treatment to already infected individuals. In addition, for the science community, contact tracing helps us learn about the various factors of a disease.
In situations where the disease is relatively unknown, like the novel coronavirus, contact tracing helps epidemiologist determine the disease characteristics. Understanding the modes of transmission, and overall infectiousness is important when studying ways to combat new diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC created a list of core principles for case investigation and contact tracing. This is part of their multipronged approach to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. They are providing resources such as this digital toolkit and health department checklists for creating case investigation and contact tracing plans. These resources are built for tracers and other healthcare professionals to fully understand the importance and procedures of proper contact tracing.
For more information on developing a COVID-19 case investigation and contract tracing plan consult the CDC here for details. These resources help healthcare professionals and others understand what is needed to work collaboratively across public and private agencies stopping the transmission of COVID-19.
Contact Tracer and Screener Jobs
The CDC is calling for communities to “scale up and train a large workforce of testers.” Supplemental Health Care has a national network of offices ready to partner with factories, office buildings, and health departments to build a safe, new normal for our communities. We are ready to help stop the spread of COVID-19. If you’re interested in learning about available jobs for contact tracers and screeners, contact us today.