The COVID-19 event has added new terms to everyday discussions, including the term “contact tracing.” Baker County Health Department Nursing Supervisor Alicia Hills heads case investigation and contact tracing for the county, and shares information about how it works.
The Baker County Health Department completes case investigation for any person who has been diagnosed with a reportable communicable disease, such as meningitis, tuberculosis and COVID-19. Test results are reported to the county even if the test is done outside of Oregon.
Contact tracing begins with Baker County Health Department contacting the person who has received a positive test result for an interview, usually by telephone. The interviewer asks for information about symptoms, people who may have been exposed to the disease, and other questions specific to the disease. The second step is for the Health Department to call the contacts who were identified and inform them they may have been exposed. During this call, information is provided about the disease and possible symptoms, if testing is needed, treatment options (for diseases where treatment is available), and how to limit spreading the disease to others.
Contact tracing is an effective tool to contain the spread of disease. If confirmed cases and their contacts isolate while they are contagious, it prevents the disease from spreading through the community.
Any confirmed cases and contacts who have been exposed to COVID-19 are directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate, with the length of time varying based on multiple factors. The Baker County Health Department works with contacts and their unique situations to establish when and if testing is needed.
The Health Department received a number of requests to release more information about the confirmed COVID-19 case last week, however, details about any individual cannot be released due to federal and state privacy laws. Public health departments are prohibited by law from sharing information that they obtain in the course of a public health investigation.
Case investigation and contact tracing will continue for each confirmed case throughout the duration of this event. If you are identified as someone who may have come in contact with an individual who tests positive, you will be contacted by the Health Department. Hills says please make sure your voicemail boxes are set up and check that they are not full so the contact tracing group can leave a message.