I've heard about contact tracing being done during the COVID-19 pandemic. What is it and how does it work?

回答 William F. Marshall, III M.D.

Contact tracing is a tool that can help slow the spread of infectious diseases, such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In communities using contact tracing, clinics, labs and hospitals send the names of people who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 to their local health department.

The health department asks each person with COVID-19 about people with whom they've recently had close contact. Health department officials then quickly (usually within 24 hours) alert people who are close contacts that they may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Officials don't share the name of the person who may have exposed them. This makes the contact tracing process anonymous and confidential.

The sooner health officials can alert close contacts, the lower the risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading further. But not all health departments have enough staff to do contact tracing. Some areas are researching and experimenting with contact tracing apps that can be used. They also research how they can maintain and protect the privacy of individuals who use the apps. The hope is these apps can make it faster and easier to find and notify people who've been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

For COVID-19 contact tracing, a close contact is someone who's been within 6 feet (2 meters) of a person with COVID-19 within two days of the person's diagnosis. Close contacts can include family, friends, co-workers and health care providers.

The health department evaluates close contacts and asks them about symptoms. Health department staff members request that close contacts be tested for the virus that causes COVID-19. They generally give close contacts several instructions. These steps can help close contacts reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the COVID-19 virus to others.

For close contacts who don't have symptoms and can't be tested, or test negative for the COVID-19 virus, doctors and the health department will:

  • Ask them to self-quarantine at home for 14 days after they were exposed.
  • Request that they keep social distance from others. They may be asked to isolate themselves from family and pets, and use a separate bedroom and bathroom.
  • Request that they monitor their health and watch for any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Ask them to check their temperature twice a day.
  • Ask them to let their doctor and health department know right away if they develop any symptoms.
  • Request that they send doctors and the health department daily health updates.

For close contacts who have symptoms and can't be tested, test positive for the COVID-19 virus, or develop symptoms, doctors and the health department will:

  • Ask them to self-isolate and recover at home for at least 10 days and self-quarantine for 14 days after being exposed. People with symptoms will likely be asked to isolate themselves from family and pets and use a separate bedroom and bathroom.
  • Ask them to seek medical care if they have any emergency warning signs, such as trouble breathing or persistent chest pain.
  • Give them specific instructions to monitor their symptoms and avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus to others.

Doctors may give different instructions to close contacts who have been diagnosed with the virus that causes COVID-19 in the last three months.

Until a vaccine is available, communities will need to use other ways to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Contact tracing can be a powerful tool to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus and help control the COVID-19 outbreak.

With

William F. Marshall, III M.D.

Nov. 03, 2020 See more Expert Answers

也可查阅

  1. Can COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread through food, water, surfaces and pets?
  2. COVID-19 and vitamin D
  3. Safe cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic
  4. Cancer treatment during COVID-19: How to move ahead safely
  5. Convalescent plasma therapy
  6. Coronavirus safety tips for going out
  7. COVID-19
  8. 冠状病毒疾病:这是什么疾病,如何自我保护?
  9. Coronavirus grief
  10. Coronavirus travel advice
  11. Coronavirus vs. flu: Similarities and differences
  12. Cough
  13. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  14. COVID-19 and high blood pressure
  15. COVID-19 and pets
  16. COVID-19 and the risk of suicide
  17. COVID-19 and your mental health
  18. COVID-19 antibody testing
  19. COVID-19 and holidays
  20. COVID-19 (coronavirus) drugs: Are there any that work?
  21. COVID-19 (coronavirus) in babies and children
  22. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  23. COVID-19 (coronavirus) stigma: What it is and how to reduce it
  24. COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine
  25. COVID-19 tests
  26. COVID-19: How much protection do face masks offer?
  27. Coping with unemployment caused by COVID-19
  28. COVID-19 (coronavirus): Quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing
  29. COVID-19: Social distancing, contact tracing are critical
  30. COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?
  31. Debunking coronavirus myths
  32. Diarrhea
  33. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
  34. Surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic
  35. Fever
  36. Fever: First aid
  37. Fever treatment: Quick guide to treating a fever
  38. Getting safe emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  39. Kids, loneliness and COVID-19
  40. Honey: An effective cough remedy?
  41. How do COVID-19 antibody tests differ from diagnostic tests?
  42. How to take your pulse
  43. How to measure your respiratory rate
  44. How to safely go to your doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic
  45. How to take your temperature
  46. How to talk to your kids about COVID-19
  47. Loss of smell
  48. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  49. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  50. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)
  51. Nausea and vomiting
  52. Neurosurgery during the COVID-19 pandemic
  53. Parenting and special needs during a pandemic
  54. Pregnancy and COVID-19
  55. Coronavirus infection by race
  56. Red eye
  57. Routine cancer screening during coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
  58. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  59. Safety tips for returning to school during COVID-19
  60. Sex and COVID-19
  61. 呼吸短促
  62. Skin care tips during a pandemic
  63. Stay healthy during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic
  64. Stay on track with medications during a pandemic
  65. Telemedicine online doctor visits
  66. Teleworking during the coronavirus
  67. Thermometers: Understand the options
  68. Video: Travel safely for medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  69. Treating COVID-19 at home
  70. Unusual symptoms of coronavirus
  71. Watery eyes
  72. Fight coronavirus transmission at home
  73. What's causing my infant's diarrhea?