What is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracing has been an important tool to help slow the spread of contagious diseases such as measles, Hepatitis A, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases across history and was a key tool for eradicating smallpox in the U.S. and worldwide. Currently, we use it to combat these diseases and emerging infections including COVID-19. Participating in contact tracing can slow the spread of the disease and help protect your loved ones.
Contact tracing is a confidential process. A contact tracer reaches out to people diagnosed with a contagious disease and their close contacts. Close contacts include household members, coworkers, teachers, classmates, friends, sexual partners, or others who may have been exposed.
Contact tracers will never ask about your immigration status.
Who will Reach Out about Contact Tracing and How?
Local health departments are responsible for public health outreach for most diseases; state staff may support this outreach.
You may be contacted by a(n):
- Phone call from your local health department
- Phone call from NC Public Health Outreach Team at 1-844-628-7223
- Text sent by the NCDHHS Division of Public Health from 1-980-399-5174 or 45395
- Email from NC-Outreachfirstname.lastname@example.org
- In person visit from a local or state public health advisor
Interpretation services are available in Spanish and many other languages. For North Carolinians who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing ASL and/or TTY interpretation is available. There are also free interpretation services available at: relaync.com.
Be sure to answer the call if an NC Contact Tracer reaches out. See NCDHHS COVID-19 Contact Tracing for more information about COVID-19 contact tracing.
What To Expect
You may receive a text, email and/or phone call if:
- you were exposed to someone who tested positive for a contagious disease and listed you as a close contact, OR
- you test positive for a contagious disease that the Division of Public Health and/or your local health department is working to control in your community through contact tracing.
There may be a link in the text or email with important information on next steps and resources such as treatment. The link will start with https: //DPHhealthinformation.gov.
You may be asked to list your close contacts so that a contact tracer can notify them of their potential exposure. Your name and personal information are not shared with any of your close contacts. All information you provide will be kept confidential in accordance with NC law.
Note: Some people may receive a phone call from a contact tracer but many people will not.
Contact tracing is conducted by trained public health professionals. A person who tests positive for a contagious disease that is actively being monitored and has their test reported to their state and/or local health department may be contacted by a text, email, phone call or in person visit. The contact tracer will provide important information on public health recommendations and available resources. They may also ask about other people who may have been exposed. All information shared is kept confidential in accordance with NC law.
Next, people who were exposed to someone who tested positive and listed by that person as a close contact may also be contacted through a text, email, phone call or in person visit. The contact tracer will also provide them with important information on public health recommendations and available resources such as treatment or testing.
Contact tracing can help slow the spread of certain contagious diseases. People can take necessary actions to protect their community and can seek vaccination or treatment if they know they were exposed to someone who tested positive for a contagious disease. The use of contact tracing in one form or another has existed for most of history to reduce disease transmission by limiting contact with people who have been infected with a contagious disease.
Additionally, contact tracing is a way to connect people with support and tools needed to isolate or quarantine (if applicable), monitor symptoms, get tested and help protect themselves and their loved ones.
A North Carolina Contact Tracer may be local or state public health staff working to slow the spread of contagious diseases in North Carolina. Contact tracers for most contagious diseases work from the local health department; however, the NCDHHS Division of Public Health also employs a contact tracing team to increase the number of contact tracers, handle particular diseases, and offer backup support for outbreak response.
Double check that the text, email or phone call is coming from one of the numbers or addresses above. If you in doubt, please call your local health department to confirm.
The NC Contact Tracer will always start by introducing themselves and stating that they are calling about a public health matter. They will ask for some information to verify that they are speaking with the correct person, but they never ask for your Social Security Number, bank or credit card numbers, any other financial information. If you are asked for this information, please hang up and call your local health department to report the incident. If you believe that you have been the victim of a scam, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division online or at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
State and local public health officials determine which contagious diseases need to be actively monitored based on several factors, such as how quickly the disease spreads, how much is already known about the disease, and how severe the disease is. A list of North Carolina’s reportable contagious diseases can be found online.
State and local public health departments store and track information collected during the contact tracing process in secure databases. These tools are secure public health platforms and keep personal information confidential in accordance with NC law.
An NC Contact Tracer may verify basic information, such as your first and last name, date of birth, or address. They may also ask you for information about your recent travel, who you have been in contact with, your symptoms and medical history (including vaccination status) and resources you may need to stay safe.
You will only receive a phone call from an NC Contact Tracer if your positive test result is reported to the state and local health department, contact tracing is being performed for that disease, and you are a priority case patient or contact. Otherwise, you may only receive a text or email, or you may not receive any outreach.
If you complete a test that provides results at home without supervision from a testing provider, the state and local health departments will not be informed of your result or attempt to contact you. However, if you complete a test at home that is sent to a lab and the disease is actively being monitored in your area, you may be contacted. If you require further support, please call your local health department.
If a NC Contact Tracer calls and doesn’t reach you, they may leave a voicemail. Additionally, you may also receive a text or email. If you require further support, please call your local health department.
If you cannot be reached by email, text or phone your local health department may send a certified letter by mail or follow up with you in person.
Contact tracing works best if everyone responds. The NC Contact Tracer may make multiple attempts to reach you. Answering the phone if an NC Contact Tracer calls, reviewing all outreach by text message or email, and providing information as requested helps to protect your loved ones and your community.
Yes, if you have been vaccinated against the disease you tested positive for or were exposed to, you should still respond to outreach from an NC Contact Tracer. The contact tracer may ask you questions about your vaccination status and, depending on your vaccination status and any symptoms, can give appropriate guidance or end outreach to you, if it is not needed.