A communicable disease is spread from one person to another through a variety of ways, such as contact with blood and bodily fluids; breathing in an airborne virus; or by being bitten by an insect. Public health works in cooperation with local doctors, hospitals and laboratories, to identify communicable diseases.
Once notified of certain communicable diseases, public health will start a case investigation by calling people to determine how they may have been exposed and who the person was in contact with. This is the basis of "contact tracing," and it is done regularly by public health for measles, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis --to name a few.
We will attempt to reach you based on the contact information supplied to us by your medical provider or the information we've gathered from other cases we're investigating.
If we suspect you may have been exposed to someone with a contagious disease and that person has reported to Tarrant County Public Health, you would receive a message similar to the following:
“This is an important message, please listen carefully. Tarrant County Public Health is trying to reach you to get information about your health. Tell us how to connect with you."
Our operator will then ask for you to select from several options.
A similar version of this message will also be sent to you via text. The phone and text message will continue to be sent to you every hour until either you select one of the choices or the system has tried four times to reach you and you have not responded to any of the attempts.
Simply responding and following any prompts will get the messages to stop. It also lets us know your preferred method of communication. If you select an online survey or a call to the hotline and then we don’t hear from you, your case will be referred to a contact tracer for follow up in person.
What happens during a contact tracer call, and what information do I need to provide to the contact tracer?
The information contact tracers receive is meant to help the individuals involved, as well as to protect those they live with and the general community.
Once information is received, only health officials with proper credentials can, by law, access it.
If you've been diagnosed with a communicable disease
Be ready to provide the following information:
- Your symptoms
- Any underlying health conditions
- If possible, where you received healthcare and the types of tests you had
- The people you were within six feet of, during the two days before you had symptoms
- If you don’t/didn’t have symptoms, list your activities during the two days before your diagnosis. This includes the places you went when you had symptoms, prior to isolation or two days before diagnosis
- The phone numbers of anyone you tell us about, so they can be called and cared for. We will encourage you to let your contacts know about your illness, but we will not be sharing your information with them
- We will ask contacts about how they are feeling and encourage them to get tested
We’ll call your contacts and let them know they have been exposed so they can get tested, but not tell them your name. Your information will remain confidential. Contact tracers will never:
- Ask for your Social Security number or bank account number
- Ask about money or payment.
Contact tracers may:
- Ask your health insurance status and obtain information on insurance, but only in the context of assisting in obtaining additional medical care or testing.
If you are uncomfortable in answering a question, you can decline to answer a question, but still can participate in completing the case or contact interview.
How can I stay informed?
The Tarrant County Health Alert Network allows public health to quickly share information about urgent public health incidents affecting the county. This network allows you to choose which health topics interest you and how you want to be alerted. When those topics are updated, you will receive an alert notice based on the method you selected.
Current topics you can select include:
- Communicable Disease/Immunization
- Data and Reports
- Environmental Health
- Public Health Preparedness
Cooperation with public health contact tracers is vital to stopping communicable diseases.
For more information about contact tracing, call 817-248-6299.