State to start contact tracing after first presumptive positive coronavirus case

Updated: Mar. 9, 2020 at 9:55 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The state says because Louisiana now has its first presumptive positive case of coronavirus, it is starting a process called contact tracing.

That means health officials will reach out to those who have been in close contact with the patient.

LSU Health Epidemiologist Dr. Edward Trapido says it’s unlikely the risk to the public will increase now that Louisiana has its first presumptive positive case of coronavirus.

“The likelihood is that’s not going to increase the risk of anybody to any extent except possibly the people in closest contact with that person,” says Trapido.

And health officials will be in touch with those people.

“For anyone who is presumed positive, we will also be completing what epidemiologists call contact tracing to make sure we are assessing the risk to the people who have come into contact with them and complete additional testing to prevent the spread,” says Governor John Bel Edwards.

“They get in contact with the patient and they ask the patient who have been in contact with lately and then they call or text that person to see whether they’re having any symptoms,” says Trapido.

But the process becomes more limited when you live in an urban area like New Orleans.

“There’s a lot of people you could come in contact with. They will know whether the patient has been in contact with anyone who has traveled, for example, to Wuhan, China or to Italy or to any of the places where there are a lot of cases.”

Trapido says those most at risk right now from the new presumptive positive case are family members and healthcare workers who may have been exposed.

“According to the information that’s available right now, you have to be within six feet of someone. So, if you are a 23-year-old mother taking care of an infant you might say okay let’s get somebody to help us or more importantly, if you are taking care of your grandmother since older people are more likely to be at risk.”

For the rest of the public, Trapido cautions against panic. He says you still have a greater risk of catching the flu, especially if you haven’t been vaccinated against it.

“By and large you won’t see anything different other than panic and that’s probably the biggest fear people are going to panic. They’re going to buy masks which don’t help on uninfected people. They’re going to be that much more afraid to go to the supermarket, more afraid to do anything in a in a crowd but in fact the risk is low.”

Trapido does expect to see more cases of coronavirus in Louisiana. Not because of the new presumptive positive case, but because we are in an urban area where people travel. But, he says it’s important to remember most people who contract the virus recover.

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