Health services rely on contact tracing efforts to track monkeypox

Hhealth officials are monitoring monkeypox outbreak in the United States by turning to contact tracing, a method of tracking infections that has struggled to keep up with the rapid spread of COVID-19[feminine].

Contact tracing is a standard public health practice that involves determining where and with whom an infected person has been, then contacting those places and people to notify them of the exposure. In some cases, quarantine is warranted while monitoring symptoms.


“The reason we do contact tracing for diseases such as COVID-19 and monkeypox is to identify other people who may have been exposed to a case and, if possible, intervene to prevent or reduce their risk of infection…connecting people to resources and information, and to identify possible common exposures where transmission could have occurred,” said Sharon Bogan, spokeswoman for Seattle & King County Public Health in Washington. , where a case of monkeypox has been confirmed.

Health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned of the community spread of monkeypox in the United States less than a month after the first US case was detected in Massachusetts. Since then, six cases have been confirmed in Californiathree in Colorado, four in Florida, two in Illinois, seven in New York, two in Utah, and one in Washington, DC, Georgia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

Contact tracing, according to various state and local health officials, will be crucial in preventing an increase in community spread. In Salt Lake County, where Utah’s only case was confirmed, the health department was able to reach all of the patient’s contacts in one day, a much faster turnaround time than contact tracing for COVID-19 would be given the rate at which the disease spreads.

State health departments with probable and confirmed cases, taking a page out of the COVID-19 pandemic playbook, are boosting their infection detection and surveillance capabilities. The task of contacting people who may have been exposed to the virus falls to local health departments, although state departments have frequently stepped in to provide jurisdictions with more resources.

“[California Department of Public Health] relies on experienced disease investigators already trained to investigate infectious disease cases to serve as front line support to state staffing if needed by local health departments for the monkeypox response” , said a spokesperson for the department. “The CDPH COVID-19 disease investigation team is also being proactively trained to investigate specific monkeypox cases/contacts should LHDs need additional staff.”

Tracing monkeypox is theoretically much easier than tracing COVID-19 transmission. While the coronavirus is an airborne pathogen, monkeypox is mainly spread by direct and close contact, including skin to skin, with saliva and with contaminated objects such as sheets or towels. Symptoms of COVID-19 appear after the person has become contagious, making the infection harder to discern without testing, while a person with monkeypox is only contagious after symptoms appear.

Symptoms of monkeypox are often noticeable. They include swollen lymph nodes, rashes, and skin lesions on different parts of the body. In most cases in the United States, the symptoms occurred in men who have sex with men, and they were often misdiagnosed as a sexually transmitted infection. The outbreak’s resemblance to an STI, however, could complicate research efforts if people who believe they have been infected are not comfortable sharing details about their personal lives, including those with whom they have been physically intimate. .

“We know that people who have been intimate with others don’t always want to tell public health investigators about it,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “In fact, they may not even know the names, addresses and phone numbers of the people they’ve been intimate with…you still need to build trust with the person, and you may need to come back a second time. and a third time to collect the information.

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease per se, but its pattern of spread has recently resembled one. The first cases in Europe were determined to be linked to raves held in Spain and Belgium last month. This marks a considerable departure from the typical means of spreading the virus from small animals such as rodents to people mainly in Central and West Africa.

Contact tracing for COVID-19 has been especially difficult for local and state health departments, which have been chronically underfunded. The multiple injections of money allocated by Congress have not been enough to bolster existing contact tracing systems to track the airborne disease. But health departments maintain they are well equipped to deal with a growing outbreak of monkeypox in the United States.


“These chains of transmission can last for a while and may not all be captured,” Schaffner said. “But that said, it’s a lot easier than COVID, and people are used to doing these kinds of surveys. Each health service has professionals who know how to carry out these investigations with great sensitivity. »