Contact tracing-the process of identifying, isolating, and managing infected persons and their contacts-is a recognized public health measure for controlling the transmission of infectious diseases. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, contact tracing has received intense attention. We provide a brief overview of the history of contact tracing during several major disease outbreaks in the past century: syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections, HIV infection, tuberculosis, Ebola virus disease, and COVID-19. Our discussion on the barriers to and facilitators of contact tracing offers a perspective on societal and institutional roles and dynamics, stigma as a major barrier to effective tracing efforts, and how the nature and epidemiology of the infection itself can affect its success. We explore the evolution and adaptation of contact tracing and provide insights for future programming and research.
Authors: Wafaa M El-Sadr, Joey Platt, Melanie Bernitz, Melissa Reyes