Letter to Editor 09

Recently a report in this newspaper (June 1) raised the question of what contact tracing is all about.

The term contact tracing may be confusing. Contact tracing is a basic public health tool for controlling diseases that spread from person to person.

It is scientifically based detective work designed to alert people unwittingly at risk for exposure to a communicable infection.

The early uses of contact

tracing over a century ago

concerned the spread of venereal diseases, which devastated families before effective medicines were discovered.

Infected individuals were asked intimate questions so that preventive measures, including abstinence and prophylaxis, could be recommended privately.

The contact tracing for exposure to the novel coronavirus is more broad because of the ways the virus spreads. It is airborne and the volume or intensity of exposure figures into who falls ill.

People have contracted the COVID-19 disease attending funerals, practicing choir, using a taxi or Uber or bus, eating at restaurants, and

at many other commonplace locations.

This is why staying home, keeping six feet apart, thorough and regular hand washing, and facial coverings or masks over your nose and mouth are recommended.

To learn more about protection from the coronavirus, visit the COVID-19 section of the “Based on Science” web page from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “How to Protect Yourself & Others” web page.

There are many heart-wrenching stories of how the pandemic has affected people. Some experience guilt from being a carrier.

Without symptoms themselves, they infected a loved one who died wretchedly and unnecessarily of COVID-19.

Some wonder how things would be different now if they had known about their exposure to the virus sooner.

While there is no doubt the pandemic and responses to it have consequences on the well-being of individuals, families, communities and economies, it is important to take the contagiousness of this disease seriously.

Diane Shinberg, Ph.D.


• EDITOR’S NOTE: Shinberg is an associate professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she directs an undergraduate program in public health.