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What is contact tracing and how does it help prevent the spread of a virus?

"Close contacts have a risk probably less than 1 percent, but people in the family have a risk that's 10 times greater than that," Blanton said.

NEW ORLEANS — A health team is trying to find anyone who has come in contact with any of the patients with the coronavirus. The goal is to try and keep it from spreading. 

Like other viruses, there is a chance of the coronavirus spreading from one person to another.

"This disease seems to be fairly transmissible," said Dr. Ronald Blanton, Chair of Dept. of Tropical Medicine with Tulane School of Health. 

That's why investigations are happening right now to track down anyone who may have been exposed to the virus. It's a process called 'contact tracing'. It's one of the quickest ways to find new cases to stop further spreading, according to the CDC.

"This is real public health in action and it is real frontline work," said New Orleans Health Director, Dr. Jennifer Avegno, 

The Louisiana Department of Heath's Epidemiology team will speak with patients to find out who they've been around. The CDC said anyone who's come within six feet of a patient could be at risk. Blanton explains that patients' families will be some of the first checked out.

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"Close contacts have a risk probably less than 1 percent, but people in the family have a risk that's 10 times greater than that," Blanton said. 

Once the epidemiology team identifies these people, they'll speak with them to determine if they have symptoms, and if they need to be tested. This type of tracing is very common with any type of illness outbreak.

"It's something they do all the time and are pretty good at," Dr. Avegno said. 

Contact tracing has been used to find measles, mumps, and tuberculosis patients.

"So it's kind of old fashioned, but still effective," Avegno said. 

Contact tracing is also happening at the hospitals. Teams are looking into who might have been treating patients and what parts of the hospitals they were in.

"Talking to those folks, assessing their risks, seeing if they have symptoms, and giving them each individual guidance on how to proceed," Avegno said.