Why disease detectives could call you about COVID-19

Coronavirus
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AKRON, Ohio (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team found state and local health departments have people working as disease detectives trying to uncover more about the spread of COVID-19 and you could get a call.

We’ve learned health departments are trying to investigate every positive test to expose every clue about how the coronavirus spreads and to alert people who may be at risk of getting infected.

“It is a lot like detective work,” said Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

She said workers traced back hundreds of cases. But drawing conclusions isn’t easy and the work can be maddening since the virus has hit so many people in so many different ways.

“I’ve talked to a lot of individuals who were confirmed cases who told me, ‘All I had was a sniffle and a headache. I never really got sick.’ And then we talk to that 15 percent that got really sick. So, while we’re investigating it, we’re trying to learn about it,” Skoda said.

Don’t be surprised if you get a call from one of these disease detectives. As soon as someone has tested positive, health departments try to reach out to that person’s friends, coworkers and anyone else who’d been in contact with that patient even going back days before the first symptoms.

“So the goal is to contain and protect others,” said Tara Perkins, with the Lake County General Health District.

Investigators in Lake County have also been investigating, trying to determine if more people are sick in certain towns, or if there’s a connection between outbreaks at nursing homes.

“This is information that we’re working on within Ohio as a whole. Identify trends, individuals that may have been at more risk than others, if there was a particular age-range that was more affected,” Perkins said.

The Cuyahoga County Health Department is getting help tracking back cases from students and faculty at Case Western Reserve University.

Melanie Amato, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health, said in a written statement, the state is working with the counties on this in various ways.

“Sometimes that means sending epidemiologists to help the local health department… Sometimes it may also involve connecting with other local health departments for resources and staffing needs. We have deployed to several counties across Ohio a handful of times so far during this pandemic. We work with the local health department further on infection control, precautions being taken and contact tracing investigations. This is still a critical part in stopping the spread and learning more on how it is getting around the community,” Amato said.

You can’t see the virus, but now you see how investigators are going after every clue to try to understand where and how the virus will hit next.

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