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Contributed Photo / Dr. Paul M. Hendricks

Q: What is contact tracing?

A: Contact tracing is not new to public health. It is a method that has been used to control contagious diseases for decades, including Ebola, meningitis, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.

The Hamilton County Health Department is now using contact tracing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you have tested positive for the novel coronavirus or have had close contact with someone who has, it is very important to participate in the contact tracing process. It involves the following steps:

1. Case investigation: A contact tracer will work with you to determine everyone you may have had close contact with during the time that you were infectious.

2. Contact tracing: A staff member will then notify exposed people of their potential exposure (without revealing your name).

3. Contact support: Potentially exposed people will be provided with education, information and support to help them understand what to do next.

4. Self-Quarantine: Potentially exposed people are required to self-quarantine for 14 days after their last exposure to the infected person. This is extremely important, as you can spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not have any symptoms of the illness yourself.

Participation in this process is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19. If you have tested positive, it is important to quickly identify others who have potentially been exposed. If you are a potentially exposed person, being quarantined will help keep your family, friends, neighbors and the community safe and healthy.

Remember to monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever and chills or cough. If you develop more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, contact your physician or practitioner or your local emergency department immediately.

Dr. Paul Hendricks is health officer for the Hamilton County Health Department and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

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