The contagious coronavirus virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and people who are in close contact with the person are at the risk of catching the infection. Monitoring these contacts closely thus becomes necessary to control the spread of the virus. The process is referred to as contact tracing. The Aarogya Setu app, introduced by the Government of India, is a contact tracing app that helps the authorities to know about the coronavirus cases and alert users about the COVID-19 cases in their vicinity. The mobile application has crossed 100 million downloads so far.
The process of contact tracing is vital for ensuring the safety of individuals and the community; since it enables people to know if they have been exposed to the virus - if they should monitor their health, go for coronavirus tests, or self-isolate if required.
What is Contact Tracing?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing the people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent its transmission. It helps in breaking the chain and saving many lives. In the context of COVID-19, contact tracing requires identifying the people who are likely to be exposed to the virus and following them up regularly for 14 days from the last point of exposure. The process of contact tracing involves three steps:
- Contact identification: Once a person is identified as corona positive, authorities identify the contacts by asking about the person's activities and the role of people around them since the illness started. The contacts could be any person who had been in contact with an infected person. It can include family, friends, health care providers, colleagues, etc.
- Contact listing: The identified persons will then be listed as contacts. They would be identified and informed of their contact status, getting early care if symptoms develop, and given information about precautions to take. For high-risk contacts, quarantine or isolation at home or hospital may be necessary.
- Contact follow-up: It will involve regular follow-up with all contacts to monitor their symptoms and test for any infection signs.
Definition of Contact
According to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, a contact is defined as a healthy person that has been in such association with an infected person or a contaminated environment as to have exposed and is therefore at a higher risk of developing the disease.
In the context of COVID-19, a contact is:
- Any person living in the same household as a COVID-19 case
- A person who had direct physical contact with a COVID-19 positive case or their infectious secretions without recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) or with a possible breach of PPE
- A person who had been in a closed environment or had a face to face contact with a COVID 19 positive case within 1 metre including air travel
Importance of Contact Tracing for COVID-19
Scientists are making every effort to discover a vaccination for coronavirus disease. Till that time, everyone has to rely on coronavirus prevention measures. Those who come in close contact with an infected person must be particularly cautious.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close contact is as any person who had been within 6 feet of a coronavirus positive person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before the onset of illness until the time the patient is isolated.
The contact tracing apps have a significant role here, particularly, if we see that many public places, including cinema and restaurants, are reopening. Contact tracing is a vital step for preventing any infectious disease, and it is particularly essential in the case of COVID-19. Moreover, many COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, where a person shows no symptoms. That is, a person can spread the virus even before symptoms start showing. They may not even be aware, and the people around them face the risks. So, in such events, contact tracing apps prove helpful in the identification of the contacts. Thus, it enables the authorities to control the spread of the disease by informing people. It also safeguards those vulnerable people who are at higher risk.
What Should You Do If You Came in Contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19?
If you were around a person who has been diagnosed as corona positive, here are some things you should follow:
- Maintain physical distance from others, especially senior citizens or those with any medical condition, as they are at greater risk
- Start self-quarantine for 14 days - the incubation period for the virus - and monitor your health
- Ensure that you follow health safety measures, such as washing hands and wearing masks
- Watch for symptoms like cough, fever, or shortness of breath
- Inform the health department officials if you develop symptoms of COVID-19
The pandemic reminds us of the health risks and how a single medical emergency can create difficulties. Prevention is known to be better than cure, and this phrase is valid in the current situation. The collective effort of all individuals would make all the difference in our fight against this deadly virus.
There is much emphasis on flattening the curve, and measures like social distancing also become the need of the hour to reduce the transmission rate. Further, when someone who has come in contact with an infected person is home-quarantined, it helps protect the health of close family members and other individuals who may have interacted. Digital tools for contact tracing make it possible to achieve this. With these tools, finding people who may have interacted with or were around a coronavirus positive person and informing and educating them in a timely manner becomes easy.
In the present situation, investing in a coronavirus health insurance plan is the right thing to do as it will provide a protective cover for you and your family. It will cover the medical expenses arising due to coronavirus treatment. Visit the official website of Care Health Insurance (formerly Religare Health Insurance) to opt for the health cover.