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Business News/ News / World/  US CDC expands definition of 'close contact' for covid-19 under new guidance
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US CDC expands definition of 'close contact' for covid-19 under new guidance

The CDC had previously defined a 'close contact' as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed covid-19 case

Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a news conference at the CDC Roybal Campus in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 (Bloomberg)Premium
Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a news conference at the CDC Roybal Campus in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 (Bloomberg)

New Delhi: As World Health Organization (WHO) has been emphasizing on contact tracing for breaking the chain of transmission of coronavirus, the United States of America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the definition of a “close contact" in a new guidance issued on Wednesday.

According to the updated guidance, a close contact is now someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

Individual exposures added together over a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). Data are limited, making it difficult to precisely define “close contact;" however, 15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition for contact investigation, the CDC said.


It further said that the factors to consider when defining close contact include proximity (closer distance likely increases exposure risk), the duration of exposure (longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk), whether the infected individual has symptoms (the period around onset of symptoms is associated with the highest levels of viral shedding), if the infected person was likely to generate respiratory aerosols (e.g., was coughing, singing, shouting), and other environmental factors (crowding, adequacy of ventilation, whether exposure was indoors or outdoors).


The CDC had previously defined a “close contact" as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed covid-19 case. The USA is currently at the top slot in the world in terms of covid-19 disease burden with 8,338,413 cases followed by India. The updated guidance for “closed contacts" may have implications for schools and offices that have started functioning in the USA.


“As the northern hemisphere enters winter, we’re seeing cases accelerate – particularly in Europe and North America. So it’s important that all governments focus on the fundamentals that help to break the chains of transmission and save both lives and livelihoods," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at WHO at a recent press conference.


“This means active case finding, cluster investigations, isolating all cases, quarantining contacts, ensuring good clinical care, supporting and protecting health workers and protecting the vulnerable," he said.


India already has a wide definition of a close contact of a covid-19 patient. In India, a contact is defined as a healthy person that has been in such association with an infected person or a contaminated environment as to have exposed and is therefore at a higher risk of developing disease.


“A contact in the context of covid-19 is a person living in the same household as a covid-19 case; a person having had direct physical contact with a covid-19 case or his/her infectious secretions without recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) or with a possible breach of PPE, a person who was in a closed environment or had face to face contact with a covid-19 case at a distance of within 1 metre including air travel," the Indian government definition states that doesn’t limit the exposure for any time period.

The Indian government also considers that an epidemiological link may have occurred within a 14‐day period before the onset of illness in the case under consideration. The Indian government quarantines such contacts.

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Published: 22 Oct 2020, 06:17 PM IST
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