Pandemic Preparedness: Contact Tracing

What is Contact Tracing?

  • Contact tracing is a way to monitor and alert those who have come into contact with individuals who are either suspected to have COVID-19 or are confirmed cases. This Public Health tool has been used successfully for decades to slow transmission for infectious and food-borne diseases.
  • Public health workers help patients or suspected patients recall their close contacts during the time they were infectious, and then the workers reach out to each contact to inform them of their potential risk, educate them on next steps, and follow up as needed. 

Why is Contact Tracing important?

  • The virus spreads very rapidly and easily from human to human, and contact tracing allows individuals to be aware of their potential risk and has the ability to reduce further spread of the virus. This public health tool is especially important under the current circumstances of the pandemic. 
  • (breaking chain of transmission) (graphic / video link)
  • Contact tracing is especially useful for those with asymptomatic or mild cases, because these individuals may not know they are sick and may be unknowingly spreading the virus to their loved ones or to their community..
  • Contact tracing and diagnostic testing go hand in hand to slow the spread of the virus, as a positive COVID-19 test leads contact tracers to begin alerting others of their potential exposure. Read more about the importance of diagnostic testing here.

What is the difference between Contact Tracing and Public Health Surveillance?

  • While there is some overlap between who conducts contact tracing and public health surveillance, the two services differ from one another. Use the table below to learn more about the differences between these two public health topics: 
COVID-19 Contact TracingCOVID-19 Public Health Surveillance
Main goalsTo contact and monitor close contacts of individuals who are suspected to have COVID-19 or tested positive for the virus.To continuously gather, analyze, interpret, and publicize Public Health data about COVID-19.
Positive or suspected COVID-19 cases are contacted (usually by phone) to help recall their close contacts while they were potentially infectious. 

Then, the positive or suspected COVID-19 case contacts are contacted (usually by phone) to inform them of their possible exposure.
Trained health professionals gather health data from individuals in order to inform a variety of health organizations, facilities, government, and individuals.
Contact tracing allows individuals to be aware of their potential risk and has the ability to reduce further spread of the virus.Public Health surveillance helps scientists, health professionals, and the public gain a better understanding about COVID-19 based on the data that is collected and analyzed.

By providing information about your household’s health to AZCOVIDTXT, you are contributing to public health surveillance!
Examples:SAFER team at the University of Arizona


Trained health professionals

Contact Tracers at Health Departments


Trained health professionals

Arizona Department of Health Services (COVID-19 data dashboard)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Data scientists

*AZCOVIDTXT DOES NOT conduct any contact tracing.

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