Digital Contact Tracing for Infectious Disease Control
In the wake of COVID-19, several big companies have announced their efforts to create a contact tracing app to help stop the coronavirus pandemic, and they are specifically targeted to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, a good contact tracing app should offer the scope for managing the spread of many other infectious diseases, such as Tuberculosis, Ebola, HIV and so on.
Contact tracing is a fundamental part of controlling any disease outbreak and it’s used by public health professionals around the world. If a person tests positive for an infectious disease, the normal practice is to speak to the patient to identify anyone who has had close contact with them during the time they are infectious. It’s then a matter of going out to find these people as soon as possible. Once contact is made, they can then be advised accordingly to minimise any infection spread. If they are in groups considered to be at high risk of becoming unwell – such as the elderly or those with underlying health conditions – they can be assessed quickly for appropriate action.
In this way, a detailed picture of the people who should be contacted is built up, such as family members, colleagues or fellow travellers.
Furthermore, if the case is linked to another country or territory, the relevant public health authorities can be notified so that they can investigate potential contacts and take steps to prevent further cases.
The Problem with Manual Contact Tracing
This current process is reliant on asking a set of paper-based questions to determine the movements of the patient. Staff then classify the locations and set about trying to find other people who might have met the index case. The whole process is documented on paper.
The problem is that this paper-based process is flawed; paper records are error-prone, and there is too much dependence on human interpretation and fallible human memory. As a result, this methodology is massively susceptible to human failures, is extremely costly and time consuming.
Paper based questionnaires, therefore, need to be disposed of, with greater use being made of the latest technology to improve efficiency and accuracy. Dot2Dot is one such solution that is being proposed.
Dot2Dot is a digital contact tracing application that harnesses AI capabilities and social network tracing to maximise the effectiveness of the contact tracing process. It will mean more contacts can be traced than through current manual practices, at pace and at a lower cost.
The digital contact tracing app is primarily aimed for use in the war against Tuberculosis, but could help health authorities with other infectious diseases, such as Ebola, HIV, Gonorrhoea, and even Measles.
Contact Tracing and Tuberculosis
Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB, currently infects one-quarter of the world’s population, with a 5–15% lifetime risk of falling ill from the disease.
The symptoms of active TB disease are very similar to COVID-19 – amongst them, a cough and fever – which may be mild, leading to delays in seeking care, thereby spreading from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing. A person needs only to inhale a few of the bacterium to become infected.
Current contact tracing for the disease is conducted using paper-based questions to try and establish a history of movements. However, this process is flawed – paper records are error-prone, not centralised, and there is too much dependence on human interpretation.
Dot2Dot removes the need for paper-based questionnaires and digitises contact tracing to eliminate errors and make the whole process of infectious disease control much more efficient.
Avoidable transmission of disease is the number one priority of public health officials and now governments globally. At the same time, the most effective way to delay the spread of an infectious disease is to apply accurate, effective and efficient contact tracing as soon as an initial index case is identified.
As a result, digital contact tracing has the potential to revolutionise the process by which a health authority identifies people who might have been in contact with a person carrying an infectious disease.
When combined with isolation of infected individuals, contact tracing can be very effective in containing and stopping a disease outbreak.
You can find out more about Dot2Dot Below.