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Local Covid-19 detectives on the case

Published:  28 August 2020

They’re the Sherlock Holmeses of the health world and now the public health unit’s contact tracing team is on the front line in the defence against Covid-19.

Townsville public health physician Dr Julie Mudd said contact tracing was a vital piece in the Covid-19 puzzle.

“In the event a person tests positive for Covid-19 we activate our contact tracing immediately,” Dr Mudd said.

“Our goal is to find out two things; where did the person get infected and who could they have spread it to?”

Dr Mudd said part of the detective work involved interviewing the positive case to identify potential contacts and locations that could be at risk.

“If a positive case has isolated at home, they will likely have only one or two close contacts; however, if a positive case has attended multiple venues with prolonged physical contact, the contacts can be in their hundreds,” Dr Mudd said.

“We are seeing this with some cases in both NSW and Victoria, which is why testing is so important; the earlier we can catch a case, the less chance we have of a cluster or widespread outbreak.”

Dr Mudd said while the contact tracing team had a core team of 10, another 50 health professionals had been trained since the pandemic began, ready to be deployed as necessary.

“Contact tracing is something the public health unit do on a daily basis for wide range of other communicable diseases such as measles, dengue fever, Q-fever and meningococcal disease,” Dr Mudd said.

“However, since the pandemic began, we have trained around 50 additional health professionals from areas that are likely to be suspended during a Covid-19 outbreak so they can be deployed to help get any outbreaks under control.”

Julie said while the unit was well prepared, testing remained the first line of defence.

“For even the mildest of symptoms, please get tested,” Julie said.

“Stay at home until your symptoms clear; the less people you come into contact with, the easier it is for our contact tracers to get control of any outbreak.

“We are doing all we can to keep town safe; however, we need the community to play their part in stopping the spread.”

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