Contact tracing has traditionally meant methodical, shoe-leather detective work.
Tracers and epidemiologists interview people with infectious diseases to find out who they had contact with in the recent past and get those people to quarantine and to report who they in turn had contact with.
Eventually tracers can track who actually brought a virus into a community and who might also be infected.
But today, the hope is that the shoe-leather work could be supplemented and made more accurate by the use of mobile phone apps.
A few states already have deployed GPS location technology to assist in such tracking while an alternate technology using Bluetooth signals is still in development.
In a series of TV interviews, mayors from New York City to Los Angeles, including both Democrats and Republicans, said they would ramp up contact tracing efforts to isolate infected individuals and allow the uninfected to go back to work.
States may use either the GPS-based approach or the Bluetooth route, or a combination of both, to track infected patients and people with whom they have been in contact.
Although privacy advocates have raised fears about using GPS location tracking for contact tracing, some technologists and public health experts say that knowing the places that infected patients may have visited could be very useful to curb the spread.
Around the country, efforts are underway to use mobile phones to assist in contact tracing without hurting privacy.
Apple and Google are collaborating to develop a Bluetooth-based system that will serve as a template for programmers to build new tracing apps that would work on iPhones and Android devices.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory also are developing and testing Bluetooth signals to assess the effectiveness of the approach.
North and South Dakota have started using a GPS-based app called Care 19.
Utah is using an app called Healthy Together that uses both Bluetooth and GPS location data.
Technologists and public health experts agree that no matter which approach is used it must guarantee users’ privacy, which is key to large-scale voluntary adoption of smartphone tracing apps.
The American Civil Liberties Union in April backed the Bluetooth approach by Apple and Google, calling it a “strong start.”
Typically, when someone tests positive for the virus, their details, including a phone number, go into a public health database – many states use cloud-based software called Maven to track the spread of the disease – and that information is then shared with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State public health officials then call the infected person to map their movement during the previous two weeks to try and identify all the individuals the patient may have been in contact with.
They then alert those people about possible exposure and try to isolate anyone with symptoms.
Tim Brookins, a Microsoft engineer, has developed the GPS location-based app that’s already in use in North and South Dakota.
Brookins, who built the app on his own without his employer’s involvement, earlier had worked with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum when the latter was a technology entrepreneur.
For contact tracing to be effective, infected individuals must be able to recall all the places they may have visited in the two weeks before testing positive for COVID-19, Brookins said.
The Care 19 app serves as an electronic “diary of places you have been” and can help people recall their movements, Brookins said.
When a user downloads the app, it assigns a random number to the device, which is then used to track the movement of the individual, Brookins said.
The app is compliant with the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, and collects location information only with the user’s consent, Brookins said.
The data is then stored on a secure database managed by Brookins.
The GPS coordinates of places visited by the user are then compared with a database of commercial establishments maintained by Foursquare, he said.
If a user consents, then the location data collected by the app would be electronically shared with state public health officials to help with identifying people who may have been exposed, Brookins said.
Knowing the location of infection transmission is as important in some cases as the person infected, said Louise Ivers, the senior medical adviser to the MIT programme called Private Automated Contact Tracing.
“We know transmission happens through droplets and also through environmental contamination, and in some cases the actual location is involved in the transmission, such as a meatpacking plant, or a Walmart location,” said Ivers, who is the executive director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“The actual location of transmission is an important part of the vector.”
Unlike the Care 19 app being used in the Dakotas, the MIT program is based on an approach developed by Ron Rivest, a world-renowned expert on cryptography, using Bluetooth signals and has become the “inspiration for the effort by Apple and Google,” said Israel Soibelman, chief strategy officer of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.
Anyone who voluntarily downloads a contact tracing app using the Bluetooth approach would enable their phone to send out a Bluetooth signal in the form of a random number every few minutes that is then recorded both by the user’s phone and by nearby phones that have similar apps.
A record of what has been transmitted and received is stored on phones for a few weeks.
When a person using the app tests positive for COVID-19, the user can then voluntarily upload a log of their Bluetooth signals to a so-called exposure database, where only the random numbers are stored with no other identifying information.
Uninfected individuals can check the database to see if any of the random numbers stored on their devices match any of the numbers identified as those of an infected person.
If they match, then the healthy person can decide to get tested or isolate themselves to stop the spread.
Researchers are still grappling with fine-tuning Bluetooth signals to assess how accurately they measure the distance between two devices as well as the time two phones were near each other, said Marc Zissman, one of the principal investigators on the MIT project.
MIT researchers are working with data from more than a dozen national labs as well as smartphone makers to understand how far Bluetooth signals can travel from one device to another and how well the distance between two devices can be measured with those signals, Zissman said.
The lab is using robots to move phones around and measure signal strength, Zissman said, because the Bluetooth waveform was designed to communicate, not to measure distance.
Apple and Google have specified standards that apps must adhere to in order to be allowed on the App Store for iPhones and for Google Play Store for Android devices.
These rules stipulate that apps must be created by or on behalf of public health authorities, require users’ consent to send and receive signals, and must not allow any advertising through the apps.
Although mobile phone technologies may assist in the contact tracing effort, states will still need to hire thousands of public health workers to call and track infected patients the old-fashioned way.
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials has estimated that the U.S. would need 300,000 contact investigators, or roughly about one caseworker per 1,000 people.
Congressional Democrats, led by Delaware Senator Chris Coons, proposed legislation last week that would expand national service programmes by creating 750,000 positions, including the 300,000 public health jobs identified by state officials as needed for contact tracing.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Short Link: https://wp.me/pcj2iU-3cDn
- Re-appointment of Guterres, a vote of confidence – UN deputy chief
- Brazil: Officer convicted for crimes under military dictatorship
- Philippines’ Duterte lashes out at ICC over drug war probe
- Almost 11,000 migrants waiting for visas to join family in Germany
- Grave violations against children in conflict remain ‘alarmingly high’- UN
- Insurgency: Zulum urges resumption of Naval operations in Baga
- NYSC organises free medical outreach for Lagos residents
- NYSC medical outreach benefits 2m Nigerians — DG
- Chadian activist seeks Nigeria’s support to restore peace in his country
- Osinbajo rallies youths on active engagement in politics
- LASG gives 3-day ultimatum to property owners encroaching on canals
- Patricide: We’ll rely on advice from DPP – Police
- We are supporting states to intensify cholera outbreak response – NCDC By Abujah Racheal
- Widow of slain Oyo journalist wants killers brought to justice
- Buhari appoints Ekpungu EFCC Secretary, names board members
- Gunmen kill ATM customer in Ibadan
- Makinde inaugurates Oyo Security Network board, Amotekun corps
- Nigerian army dismisses video of soldiers mutilating suspect
- Anambra 2021: PDP NWC meets stakeholders, sues for unity
- FG pays N10b to 1m beneficiaries every 2 months -Coordinator
- COVID-19: Union urges Nigerians in S/Africa to obey new lockdown rules
- COVID-19: World Bank, AU partner to support vaccination for 400m Africans
- President Buhari reassures commitment to tackle insecurity
- Verification: customs threatens to detain defaulting airplanes
- Niger to support special squad to rescue Islamiyyah children
- Association hails FG’s agric intervention programmes
- $430m Enugu-Cameroon highway to be completed before 2021 end – AfDB
- U.S. ready to meet N. Korean officials ‘anywhere, anytime’ – Envoy
- Rural Entrepreneurship: Agency empowers 200 women, youths in FCT
- Alleged sexual assault: Baba Ijesha to be arraigned on June 24
- Yoga practice best under supervision to prevent complications – Physician
- My faith in young generation unshakable — Aisha Buhari
- Court remands man for allegedly beating woman to death
- NYSC offers free medical services to 2 million rural dwellers
- 46th Birthday reflections by Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi State – Full Speech
- Iranian nuclear power plant shut for technical reasons
- 49th Birthday reflections by Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi State – Full Speech
- Crocodiles kill Indonesian mineworker
- Lagos-Abeokuta expressway: TRACE cautions truck drivers against speeding
- Buhari greets former I-G Solomon Arase at 65
- Germany records flat population growth first time in almost decade
- England’s COVID-19 vaccine bookings top 1m in 2 days
- E-Livestock Global fez o launch of the Mastercard solution based on blockchain (chain of blocks and dice) with the objective of increasing the visibility of the non-Zimbabwean bovine industry
- NAFDAC to register, certify premises of chemical manufacturers
- Russia urges attention on Iranian oil back to market
- Angelina Jolie visits Burkina Faso on Refugee Day
- COVID-19: Bereaved urges compassion for victims’ relatives By Cecilia Ologunagba
- COVID-19: Nigeria’s Consulate in New York embarks on vaccination drive
- COVID-19: NCDC reports zero cases June 20
- Troops eliminate 20 terrorists in Borno
- Qatar wants to allow only vaccinated fans to attend 2022 World Cup
- Switzerland crush Turkey but must wait on Euro 2020 hopes
- No loss of life in Marina fire outbreak — LASEMA
- NPFL: Plateau Utd humble Warri Wolves 2-0 to harvest maximum points
- UBEC commences inspection of model schools across Nigeria
- Request for daily stock record is statutory requirement — DPR
- Olympics-bound Anyanacho wins gold at Beirut Taekwondo open
- Kano govt. declares state of emergency on open defecation
- Troops foil terrorists’ attack, neutralise scores in Borno town
- FGC B/Yawuri: Troops rescue 4 more abductees, total now 11
- Fathers Day: You must live up to responsibility – cleric charges
- 25 home-based players to resume camping in Abuja for Mexico friendly Tuesday
- Nigeria earned N79.96bn from solid minerals in 2019, highest in 5 years – NEITI
- Borno govt to re-open farming activities – Official
- 24 states for maiden Lagos open athletics championships – Official
- Expo: MSME operators seek more research, fund to boost organic sector
- Police foil armed robbery attempt in Abuja
- Transforming: Agriculture and Food Processing in Nigeria
- Designer of 1004 Flats Housing Estate in Lagos, Fola Alade, is dead
- Nigeria’s consul advocates strategic engagement with S/Africa
- Video: Buhari thumbs up NLNG as NNPC reviews activities
- NiMet, FOA partner to ensure food security in Nigeria
- IMO lauds Nigeria’s leading role in securing Gulf of Guinea
- Nigeria’s South Africa mission issued 10,341 passports in 14 months – Envoy
- PDP stalwart seeks VAT reversal to 5%
- NDLEA arrests officer, 6 others for dealing in cocaine
- NGO advocates death penalty for looters of public funds
- Yar’Adua, Abu-Ali bag Yahaya Bello’s posthumous peace Idol award
- ASUU threatens industrial action over non-payment of members’ salaries
- All you need to know about Sickle Cell Disorder
- Oyo Police confirm murder of popular Ibadan radio presenter
- Sickle Cell Day: Author calls for awareness, adequate information
- Rivers council chairman to train 20 youths in maritime technology
- Vandalism: Works minister seeks NAN’s support on enlightenment
- How FG is deploying home-grown technology in road construction-Fashola
- Banana Village: From swamp to shelter
- Works ministry to revive Bridge Maintenance Unit–Fashola
- FG touching lives through expanded infrastructure, says Fashola
- FG will complete 2nd Niger Bridge next year: Fashola
- FG committed to affordable housing for Nigerians –Fashola
- Euro 2020: Spain, Poland in danger of early exit
- Work at Third Mainland Bridge critical for its preservation- Fashola
- Don’t block highways, Police warn protesters
- FG will complete key projects before 2023- Fashola
- FC Barcelona confirm agreement to sign Depay
- Bye-election: PDP wins Kaduna Assembly seat
- FGC Yauri Abduction: Gov. Bagudu to lead rescue operation in forest
- Golf plays significant role in life of military – CAS
- Buhari urges ECOWAS leaders to exert ‘pressure on Mali’ to return to civilian rule
- Buhari congratulates Guterres, Amina Mohammed on second tenure
- Insecurity: Imams demand religious leaders inclusion in national security architecture
- Buhari committed to economic diversification – Lai Mohammed
- FG to revitalise, reposition 6 zonal sickle cell centres
- Yoga key to community development, unity – Envoy
- Ooni sues for unity as Oluyin, Onibeju-Lekki visit palace
- Kogi Govt. unveils website to showcase achievements
- Police arrest bandit, recover AK47 rifle in Kaduna
- Truck crushes 2 persons on motorcycle to death in Ogun
- AfCFTA: Forum calls for integration of gender in trade services negotiation
- Bauchi residents lament erratic power supply
- Groups advocates safe environment, sexual education for children
- Abductions: International NGO tasks FG on safe, uninterrupted education
- Customs CG lauds Apapa Command for drug seizure
- Education, health, others to achieve 90% budget implementation through USAID project- Stakeholders
- New TCN transmission region to boost economic activities in Kano -Official
- Voter apathy characterise bye-election in Kaduna
- Navy arrests vandals with 210,000 litres of diesel
- NEMA advises residents as another tanker crashes, spills content in Lagos
- Physicians want states to curb GBV
- COVID-19 cases in Africa increase by 52% — WHO
- U.S. administered 300m COVID-19 vaccines in 150 days – Biden
- Rainfall: NiMet cautions aviation stakeholders on precautionary measures By Gabriel Agbeja
- Cardiologist says stress management crucial to tackling HBP
- Refugee Day: Abuja gets ‘City with Refugees’ status
- Students laud army’s selflessness in tackling security challenges
- Sports Ministry appoints Mikel Obi as Ambassador
- 95% of UTME candidates attain NIN requirement — JAMB
- 41m people under risk of famine, says WEP
- NiDCOM, NDLEA to build rehabilitation centers in Nigeria
- Gurin replaces Sani as aide to First Lady
- Turin replaces Sani as SSA to First Lady
- China-Nigeria cultures, civilisation contributes to world sustainable development – Envoy By Fortune Abang
- 46th Birthday: Stakeholders laud Gov. Bello’s giant strides in security, governance
- UNHCR applauds Nigeria’s “huge” contributions to catering to refugee’s needs
- Nigeria, APC is proud of you, Omo-Agege lauds Gov. Yahaya Bello
- Paradise estate residents demand title documents from developer
- Court discharges, acquits Delta Sen. Nwaoboshi of N322m laundering charge
- INEC begins online voter registration on June 28 – official
- WHO says 146,000 Africans die yearly from tobacco-related diseases
- Insecurity: Nigerian Army tasks officers, soldiers on critical thinking
- Insecurity: AU-ECOSOCC urges women involvement in peace mediation, resolution
- LPG tanker explosion: Lagos govt begins investigation
- Association to build judges capacity to tackle maritime cases
- FBNH harps on importance of financial statement to drive investments
- Expert recommends preferential COVID-19 vaccination for SCD patients under 16
- My administration will promote culture through tourism – Diri
- Angola registers over 5,500 deaths from malaria in first 5 months
- INEC confirms arrival of sensitive materials for Kaduna by-election
- 3 bodies recovered from Lagos LPG tanker explosion scene– NEMA
- N/East: 21 communities, 5 IDPs camps benefit from Mercy Corps’ peace initiative
- Gas explosion: 13 injured, 25 cars destroyed in Lagos – NEMA
- UN chief urges debt relief extension for middle-income countries
- We are ready to resume CVR on June 28 – INEC
- Nigeria reports 39 new COVID-19 infections, active cases now 1,490
- Police arrest man for raping stepmother By Yinusa Ishola
- WHO laments high suicide rate
- Nadal withdraws from Wimbledon tournament, Tokyo Olympics
- NEC backs move to check sexual assault
- Buhari mourns ex-Zambian President, Kaunda
- 18 parties jostle for Anambra Governorship election – INEC
- Buhari signs bond to end violence against children
- AU mourns Zambia’s former President Kenneth Kaunda
- How my successor will emerge in 2023 – Gov. Ugwuanyi
- Africa’s COVID-19 infections surging by 20% amid third wave – WHO
- EndSARS: Judicial panels submitting reports – NEC
- Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda dies at 97
- I remain indebted to Nigerians for love shown to me – Buhari
- Air Peace begins daily flights to Ilorin
- EFCC boss dismisses reports linking serving minister to $37.5m property
- Armed robbery: 22-year-old man to die by hanging in Ekiti
- Ex-Philippine mayor killed for attacking police officer
- COVID-19: IMF says Nigeria’s economy ‘gradually’ recovering
- EFCC recovers N6bn, 30 estates, 32 automobiles in 3 months – Official
- SAP Young Professionals program extends digital capacity building for Lusophone Africa
- Digital Economy Policy: ACCI signs MoU, seeks private sector’s integration
- Security operatives deactivate IPOB/ESN criminals – DHQ
- Chinese astronauts arrive new space station
- SAP Young Professionals program extends digital skills development to Lusophone Africa
- Reps passed 41 bills in 2 years – Official By Femi Ogunshola
- Buhari to security agencies: Give no breathing space to terrorists, criminals
- E-Livestock Global Launches Blockchain-Based Mastercard Solution to Bring Visibility to Zimbabwe’s Livestock Industry
- Highly transmissible COVID-19 appears in Sri Lankan capital
- Gunmen abduct 4, kill policeman in Ogun
- Economist challenges W/Bank’s prediction on Nigeria’s inflation rate
- Ex-president Gbagbo returns home after 10 years in exile
- 38 AKSU programmes get NUC accreditation – VC
- NLNG Train 7 project, game changer for gas utilisation- IPMAN
- Iran urges voters to take part in Friday’s presidential election
- Tanzania plans to join COVAX vaccine-sharing facility — WHO
- Troops arrest suspected Chadian kidnapper, eliminate terrorists
- Arrest of kidnap kingpin excites Gov. Umahi
- President Buhari arrives Maiduguri for official visit
- Taking final stand on Nigeria oil, gas downstream sector deregulation
- AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine recommended for Australians above 60
- Osinbajo presides over virtual NEC
- MEDIA ADVICE – African Media Agency
- BitDAO Raises $ 230 Million to Launch One of the World’s Largest DAOs
- Okowa lauds TETFund for contributing to educational development
- Nigeria records 8 new COVID-19 infections – NCDC
- Enugu Police Commissioner orders rescue of Rivers United Coach