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What Is Contact Tracing? Is it Effective To Control COVID-19 Spread?
Boldsky | 27th Mar, 2020 02:30 PM

The cases of coronavirus or COVID-19 is rapidly increasing every day. Many people are constantly been evaluated based on contact with positive coronavirus patients. Authorities in different parts of the world are identifying coronavirus infected people based on a concept called contact tracing.

The idea behind this concept is to prevent the spread of the infection to large crowd or communities by breaking the transmission chains. But the question is what exactly is this contact tracing, how does it work and is it really effective to control the COVID-19 spread?

What Is Contact Tracing?

According to a Journal Healthcare Management Science, contact tracing is a primary means to control the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, STDs, Ebola and tuberculosis. It is a concept which is used to detect the number of infected people who have come in close contact with the positive cases of the disease.

For example, COVID-19 is a pandemic that has infected a millions of people across the globe due to its contagious nature. The mode of transmission of the infection is through close contact with individuals who are already infected with the virus. Such people are the potential threat as they may spread the virus to a larger crowd without even knowing that they are carrying the disease. [1]

Contact tracing concept is meant to provide a rapid response to people who are newly infected and watch them closely to prevent further spread. When a pandemic is declared, it is very essential to do a backward tracing to understand the spread. So, how does it work?

How Does It Work?

According to the World Health Organization, contact tracing is carried mainly through three steps which are as follows:

  1. Contact identification: Here, the infected person is asked to identify his/her activities since the onset of the illness and the number of people they have visited or come in contact with such as family members, friends, relatives, colleagues or any healthcare worker.
  2. Contact listing: In this process, all the contacts, who have come in direct contact with the infected individualare listed down. The efforts are made to list down each and every individual. The infected individual is also informed why it is necessary to self-quarantine at an early stage to stop the spread of the infection to a community level.
  3. Contact follow-up: Here, regular follow-up is carried out with all contacts and their symptoms are monitored. They are also asked to self-quarantine for prevention of the disease.
Is Contact Tracing Effective?

In COVID-19, it takes around 7-14 days for the symptoms to develop. In the first three days, an individual can get mild symptoms like fever, cough and headache. Contact tracing is a kind of tricky work so that backtracking of the people, who have come in close contact with the infected personcan be carried out.

When we say 'close contact', it does not mean people on the streets or shop across the road which the infected person has passed by. Close contact means face to face contact or people with whom the infected one has spent more than 15 minutes within two metres. Close contacts are also categorised as high and low and they are provided information about the impact of coronavirus spread and asked for self-quarantine in case they develop symptoms.

Contact tracing is effective because it immediately traces people who are at higher risk of the disease. It also allows the immediate testing of the close contacts who have developed symptoms. According to a study published in the journal Lancet, the outbreak of COVID-19 can be controlled by 90 per cent only if 80 per cent of the contacts are traced and isolated.

Story Of Patient 31 In South Korea

When coronavirus appeared in South Korea, the health officials said that they have largely controlled the situation for several weeks with only 30 infected cases in the country. The situation became worse just because of the patient 31 who has changed everything.

The Korean government reported that patient 31 has a long travel history to South Korea and was coronavirus positive. She was a 61-year-old woman and was tested positive on February 18. When she was informed by the health officials to isolate herself to prevent the spread of the disease, she ignored all the rules and visited social gatherings infecting more than thousands.

According to the Korean Center for Disease Control, the women alone was responsible for around 60 per cent of the spread of the disease. The current infected cases of South Korea is more than 9000 with around 131 deaths.

Why The Details Are Not Released To The Public

There is a wide range of reasons why all the details of the coronavirus positive cases have not been released to the public. Whenever a pandemic is declared, people get scared and treat people who tested positive as threats.

The information can also impact the personal safety of the individual and the privacy of the family members. That is why such information is not shared publicly and shared only with the healthcare department.

There may also be a wide group of people who are less informed about the meaning of close contact. As aforementioned, coronavirus can't get transmitted if the infected person has just crossed paths with them. It requires face-to-face interaction and sharing an enclosed space for more than 15 minutes within two metres with the infected individual for the viruses to get transmitted.

To Conclude

Italy, which has the second largest healthcare system in the world, is finding it difficult to deal with the current scenario as the positive coronavirus cases are constantly increasing day by day. We don't want such fatal situation to occur in India, which is why the government has locked down public life and activities to focus more on contact tracing of the previous cases. This is carried out for the safety of all of us. So, stay at home and stay safe.

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