Communicable diseases, also known as infectious diseases, are illnesses that result from an organism (such as a bacteria or virus) spreading to persons from other persons, animals, food, or environmental surfaces. These infections can spread in a variety of ways such as contact with contaminated bodily fluids, surfaces, insect bites, or through the air. Some communicable diseases are required to be reported to North Carolina Public Health, such as measles, hepatitis A, tuberculosis, and some sexually transmitted diseases. State and local health departments work together to ensure North Carolina is prepared to respond to communicable diseases that affect the people who live, work, and visit here.
What does Public Health Outreach for Communicable Diseases Look Like?
North Carolina Local Health Departments and the Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) work in partnership to respond to reported communicable diseases while protecting the health of people in North Carolina. Outreach by way of text, email, phone call or in person visit may be made to case patients and their contacts to support the health of the person while also helping to reduce the spread of the disease.
The outreach may include asking questions to better understand the person’s disease and collect any contacts they may have exposed (a process called case investigation), alerting and monitoring potentially exposed contacts (a process called contact tracing), providing information on how to keep themselves and their community safe, and connecting them to resources such as housing or treatment.
Public health outreach, including case investigation and contact tracing, has been an important tool to help slow the spread of contagious diseases and was a key tool for eradicating smallpox in the U.S. and worldwide. Participating in the process can slow the spread of the disease and help protect your loved ones.
All public health outreach for communicable diseases is confidential, and you will never be asked about your immigration status.
Who will Reach Out about Communicable Diseases and How?
Local health departments are responsible for public health outreach for most diseases; the NCDHHS Division of Public Health staff, including members of the state-sponsored Public Health Outreach Team), may also support this outreach.
You may be contacted by a(n):
- Phone call or text from your local health department or the NC DHHS Division of Public Health
- Phone call from NC Public Health Outreach Team at 1-844-628-7223
- Text sent by the NC DHHS Division of Public Health from 45395 or 1-980-399-5174
- 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 if you receive a call from one of the numbers mentioned above.
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 for which the Division of Public Health and/or your local health department is doing outreach.
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 "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.
A person calling about public health outreach for communicable diseases will:
NEVER ask for your Social Security number
NEVER ask for any private financial information
NEVER ask for credit card information
NEVER send you a link without proper authentication procedures
NEVER ask for your immigration status
Case investigation and contact tracing is conducted by trained public health professionals from local health departments or the NCDHHS Division of Public Health, including members of the state-sponsored NC Public Health Outreach Team. A person who tests positive at a reporting laboratory or provider for a contagious disease for which outreach is being performed may be contacted by a text, email, phone call or in person visit. The outreach 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 known to be exposed to someone who tested positive may also be contacted through a text, email, phone call or in person visit. The outreach will also provide them with important information on public health recommendations and available resources such as treatment or testing.
Case investigation and 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 case investigation and contact tracing in one form or another has existed for most of history to reduce disease transmission.
Additionally, case investigation and contact tracing are ways 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.
Outreach to case patients and their close contacts may be performed by local or state public health staff working to slow the spread of contagious diseases in North Carolina. Most staff responding to contagious diseases work from the local health department; however, NCDHHS Division of Public Health staff, including members of the state-sponsored NC Public Health Outreach Team, may also support this outreach.
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.
A person making public health outreach for communicable diseases will always start by introducing themselves and stating that they are calling about a public health matter. They will not name the disease that they are calling about until after verifying identity. 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.
North Carolina continues to make the COVID-19 public health response more sustainable and aligned with the current state of the disease. NC DHHS is no longer recommending or conducting routine contact tracing COVID-19; however, the NC Public Health Outreach Team or your local health department will make informational phone calls to certain COVID-19 case patients whose positive lab was reported to the state. These informational calls will provide the case patient with information about isolation, treatment, vaccines, and how to tell their own close contacts of possible exposure. The case patient will also be asked about their needs and connected to resources they such as food, transportation, or housing if appropriate. Local health departments may choose to implement contact tracing strategies in response to their local needs.
If you have questions about COVID-19 and would like to talk to someone immediately, please call your local health department or the NC Public Health Outreach Team at 1-844-628-7223 from 8am to 6pm.
If you tested positive for COVID-19 with a test that is reported to an NC state or local health department, you will likely receive a text or email from the NC DHHS Division of Public Health alerting you of your positive diagnosis and sharing important information about isolation, treatment and connecting to resources you may need.
You may also receive a phone call from the NC Public Health Outreach Team regarding COVID-19 if you are an individual who is 65 years or older, was not reached by text or email, or lives in a socially vulnerable area and may be in need of resource support.
If you believe you have tested positive or believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 and are in need of support, please reach out to your local health department or the NC Public Health Outreach Team Call Center at 1-844-628-7223.
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.
If you are called for public health outreach about communicable diseases, you may be asked to 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 your local health department or the NC DHHS Division of Public Health if your positive test result is reported to the state and local health department, case investigation and 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 public health outreach call is made but doesn’t reach you, a voicemail may be left. 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, the NC DHHS Division of Public Health or your local health department may send a certified letter by mail or follow up with you in person.
Public health outreach, including case investigation and contact tracing, works best if everyone responds. Multiple attempts may be made to reach you. Answering the phone if you are called about public health outreach, 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. The public health professional 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.