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Retrospective contact tracing needs refinement – Dr Kelly

Retrospective tracing efforts undertaken by staff at HSE Covid-19 contact tracing centres will require refinement and improvement, according to a leading public health specialist. Information on the movements of confirmed Covid-19 cases passed on to specialists in public health by contact tracing staff is not always comprehensive and can lack important data, Dr Ina Kelly, who recently became the new President of the IMO, told the Medical Independent.

Public health specialists routinely perform source investigation of cases, but contact tracing staff are now performing retrospective tracing of positive Covid-19 cases for a period of seven days prior to the onset of symptoms/confirmation of a positive test result. The new process, introduced at the end of last month, replaces the previous two-day only backwards tracing rule for contact tracing staff.

It is hoped that a more detailed inspection of the movement of cases prior to their positive test result will help to shed light on how they contracted the virus. Data shows that up to 20 per cent of cases are defined as “community transmission”, which means it is unknown how a person was infected.

According to Dr Kelly, public health specialists are providing feedback to contact tracers on how to refine and improve the information gathered from confirmed cases. Meanwhile, Dr Kelly highlighted the importance of quarantine for overseas travellers into Ireland.

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