Alberta Health Services contact tracers, self-described disease detectives
Prior to COVID-19, contact tracers such as Angela Jacobs, associate manager of notifiable disease for AHS, investigated viruses like measles or whooping cough. While a global pandemic was always possible, no one anticipated having to deal with one.
The importance of contact tracing, which can be as simple as a couple of phone calls, or complex enough to require an entire team of investigators, has increased along with the number of tests conducted. Alberta has one of the highest testing rates in the country, and has been adding to their contact tracing team since April, in order to keep pace. By the end of September, the province will have more than 1,000 active tracers.
“What we’re doing is solving a mystery,” Jacobs told Fort McMurray Today. “(We’re) hunting down clues. We actually call ourselves disease detectives.”
Investigators are only one part of the tracing team, as it takes multiple team members anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to reach everyone involved in a single case. Handling outbreaks at large sites such as meat packing plants can be much more complex, as are cases that arise from social gatherings.
“It kind of goes out like a spider’s web. We call it our social webs,” Jacobs said. “Usually, it’s following threads, following trails and really relying on the public and the people we’re talking to. For the most part, Albertans have been really awesome working with us.”
Source: Fort McMurray Today