Explainer: What’s contact tracing and the way can it assist battle the brand new coronavirus?


(Reuters) – Contact tracing has been used for many years to manage the unfold of infectious ailments. The fundamental concept is straightforward: monitor down contaminated individuals, then discover everybody who has been close to them and encourage these individuals to remain residence till it’s clear they aren’t sick.

FILE PHOTO: A pc picture created by Nexu Science Communication along with Trinity Faculty in Dublin, exhibits a mannequin structurally consultant of a betacoronavirus which is the kind of virus linked to COVID-19, higher referred to as the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/by way of REUTERS

Proper now, stay-at-home orders are getting used worldwide to attenuate the potential for individuals contaminated with the novel coronavirus to unfold it. When restrictions are lifted and regular actions resume, intensive contact tracing will probably be wanted to stop new outbreaks.

Right here’s what you have to learn about contact tracing:


First, public well being investigators discover out everybody an contaminated individual has seen, and in all places that individual has gone over the earlier a number of days.

“Virtually each an infection has a time frame throughout which an individual with the an infection is taken into account contagious,” mentioned Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, from Baylor Faculty of Drugs in Houston. “Contact tracing is the method of determining who was in sufficient contact with the individual throughout the time they had been infectious that they could have been uncovered.”

If investigators discover individuals with signs, they could ask them to self-quarantine for 2 weeks and supply a rundown of contacts. Individuals with out signs may additionally be requested to self-quarantine and could also be monitored to see if they continue to be symptom-free.


Whereas stay-at-home orders are in place, contaminated individuals don’t are available in contact with many others. In San Francisco, for instance, every new case solely has about 5 contacts who want tracing, mentioned Dr. George Rutherford from the College of California San Francisco, who’s working with town to trace individuals with new coronavirus infections.

However as soon as individuals return to highschool and work, every contaminated individual might simply are available in contact with 1,000 others, he mentioned.

“That is the primary line of protection in opposition to coronavirus as soon as issues open up once more,” Rutherford mentioned.


A whole bunch of hundreds of investigators will probably be wanted to do contact tracing in the USA as soon as stay-at-home orders elevate, Rutherford mentioned.

Some illness investigators are already on the job on the federal Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention and state and native well being departments, however they solely make up about one-tenth of what’s wanted. The remainder of the investigators is perhaps some mixture of latest graduates from public well being packages, volunteers, and librarians or different authorities employees who’ve been furloughed.

Intensive testing can even be wanted to establish contaminated individuals, says Dr. Ranu Dhillon of Brigham and Girls’s Hospital and Harvard Medical Faculty in Boston.

“Sturdy testing and call tracing … will probably be important for conserving COVID-19 transmission contained and from once more spiraling uncontrolled,” Dhillon mentioned. COVID-19 is the respiratory illness attributable to the coronavirus.

Reporting by Lisa Rapaport; modifying by Nancy Lapid and Grant McCool


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