|Demand of the question|
Introduction. What is contact tracing?
Body. What are various steps in contact tracing? Discuss its significance in fighting epidemics.
Conclusion. Way forward.
In public health, contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent transmission. People in close contact with someone who is infected with a virus, such as the coronavirus, are at higher risk of becoming infected themselves, and of potentially further infecting others. Closely watching these contacts after exposure to an infected person will help the contacts to get care and treatment, and will prevent further transmission of the virus.
Various steps in contact tracing:
- Individual identification: An individual is identified as having a communicable disease. This case may be reported to public health or managed by the primary health care provider.
- Contact identification: Once someone is confirmed as infected with a virus, contacts are identified by asking about the person’s activities and the activities and roles of the people around them since onset of illness.
- Contact listing: All persons considered to have contact with the infected person are listed as contacts. Efforts are made to identify every listed contact and to inform them of their contact status, what it means, the actions that will follow, and the importance of receiving early care if they develop symptoms.
- Sample testing: Samples must be collected and sent to the designated laboratory for testing, and appropriate medical management must begin.
- Symptomatic contacts: Contacts are provided with information about prevention of the disease. In some cases, if contacts show symptoms, they may be isolated at a health care facility or at home until the results come in.
- Asymptomatic contacts: They must remain at home (home quarantine) for at least 28 days after the last exposure with the patient. The contacts should start monitoring their health and watch for symptoms of fever and cough, within 28 days of the last exposure to the patient, and maintain a list of people they are in contact with, on a daily basis.
- Contact follow-up: Regular follow-up is conducted with all contacts to monitor for symptoms and test for signs of infection.
Significance of contact tracing:
- Interrupt transmission: Contact tracing is important to interrupt ongoing transmission and reduce spread of an infection.
- Alert Contacts: It is important to alert contacts to the possibility of infection and offer preventive counselling or prophylactic care.
- Treatment: Contact tracing is important to offer diagnosis, counselling and treatment to already infected individuals.
- Prevent reinfection: If the infection is treatable, to help prevent reinfection of the originally infected patient.
- Study epidemiology of a disease: To learn about the epidemiology of a disease in a particular population.
- Investigating new diseases: Although contact tracing is most commonly used for control of endemic diseases, it is also a critical tool for investigating new diseases or unusual outbreaks.
Contact tracing has been a pillar of communicable disease control in public health for decades. The eradication of smallpox, for example, was achieved not by universal immunization, but by exhaustive contact tracing to find all infected persons.