When an individual with clinical symptoms and epidemiological history compatible with Ebola is identified, or if a traveler dies without apparent cause but has a clinical and epidemiological history compatible with the disease, then contacts should be traced and monitored (even if confirmation of the diagnosis is pending).
Contacts should be monitored for 21 days after the last known exposure to the Ebola virus.
A contact is defined as anyone who has:
- had direct physical contact with the patient (dead or alive) during the disease.
- slept in the same house as an infected person since the onset of symptoms of the disease.
- had direct physical contact with the (dead) patient at the funeral.
- had contact with the patient's blood or bodily fluids during the illness.
- touched the patient's clothing or bedclothes.
- been breastfed by the patient (babies).
Health workers involved in the direct care of suspected or confirmed cases of EVD, as well as laboratory staff, must be registered as contacts and monitored until 21 days after the last possible exposure to contaminated material.
Countries need to have tools to efficiently manage the monitoring of contacts. For the countries that do not have such tools, PAHO/WHO can provide the Field Information Management System (FIMS). For training in the use of this tool, countries should contact their PAHO/WHO country office.
Contacts can be monitored daily through in-person visits or else virtually, if the system allows visualization of the individual (e.g., video chat).
At the least sign of symptoms, the contact should be sent to the isolation ward of the designated hospital for a medical assessment and further investigation. This should trigger an active search for suspected cases both in the community and at health facilities.
Questions and Answers
- Contact tracing during an outbreak of Ebola virus disease
- Travel and transport risk assessment: guidance for public health authorities and the transport sector
- Risk assessment guidelines for diseases transmitted on aircraft (RAGIDA). European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
- Preparedness and Response for introduction of Ebola virus disease in the Americas
- Contact tracing. US CDC
- Scientific Literature (BVS)