What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is a public health effort that has been used successfully to track and help contain the spread of other infectious diseases including SARS and Ebola. So how does it work?

If you test positive for COVID-19, a public health worker will contact you. The worker or “contact tracer” will ask you about your activities in the days just before your symptoms started. They will ask you where you went and with whom you had contact.

The contact tracer will then reach out to your contacts - your family, work colleagues, health care providers, etc. whom you have seen - and alert them that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. The contact tracer will explain what that means, ask them about their symptoms, and answer any questions they may have.

Your contacts might then be referred for testing or asked to self-quarantine. The idea is to break the chain of transmission. This way, contact tracing can help prevent the virus from spreading to others. 

Remember that you can help control the reach of the novel coronavirus by limiting your contacts because social distancing works.


Last update:  April 20, 2020, 10:35 AM ET

Science review: AN, ERS