Contact tracing follows case investigation and is a tool for detecting, monitoring, and helping people who may have been exposed to an individual with a communicable disease, such as COVID-19. In order to protect public health, health departments also administer communicable disease prevention programs within their jurisdictions.
Contact tracers deal with patients and assist in separating people who are infected with the virus from people who are not infected. This entails asking cases to voluntarily separate and quarantine at home. For COVID-19, close contact is characterized as any person who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for 10 minutes or longer from two days prior to the onset of the disease. Close contact also includes asymptomatic patients two days prior to positive sample collection until the patient is isolated.
Recommended measures include remaining at home until 14 days after the last exposure and maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet from others. During quarantine, self-monitoring of the symptoms are suggested which include checking the temperature twice a day and watching for cough, shortness of breath, congestion of nose, loss of taste or smell, fatigue, body aches, nausea ,vomiting and diarrhea.
Proximity, the time of exposure, are some of the variables to describe close contact. It is probable that longer exposure time would increase the risk of exposure. Symptomatic coughing patients are likely to increase risk of exposure. When assessing close contact, other factors to consider include whether the patient or contact was wearing a N95 respirator, which will effectively protect other people from being affected by respiratory secretions.
It is fair to describe a prolonged exposure as any exposure for 10 minutes or longer in healthcare environments, since the contact is someone who is ill. However, symptoms and the form of contact remain significant. If the person has coughed directly into the person’s face is a significant type of interaction. Talking, coughing, sneezing, and exhaling within 6 feet of an infected person can spread the virus.