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Epidemic intelligence specialists trace COVID-19 to contain its spread Updated: 2020-02-22 13:43:14 KST

Epidemic intelligence specialists are health professionals who investigate the cause and the characteristics of infectious diseases
They are on the front line of the battle against the spread of epidemics, as they also take part in planning quarantine policies and actually carrying out those measures.

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, their primary role was stopping the virus from entering the country.
At airports, they examine any suspected patients from virus-hit countries and quarantine them if necessary.

But as the outbreak has entered a new phase where the virus has spread into local communities, they now head straight to any contaminated area.
From there, they trace the locations of confirmed patients and the people that they might have come into contact with by analyzing CCTV footage.
The faster they finish that process, the more successful they are in containing the spread.
This puts them in a race against time.

"This is a class one infectious disease with the highest risk which requires a swift response. So we are under a lot of time pressure."

They say COVID-19 is especially challenging compared to other infectious diseases because it is novel and fast-spreading.
Also, the investigation could get delayed when people refuse to cooperate citing privacy issues.

To increase their efficiency, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have teamed up with local telecom firms to obtain data related to confirmed patients in real time.

"Following the MERS outbreak and the subsequent amendment to privacy laws, we are actively cooperating with the government by sharing location, contact and card usage data of confirmed patients."

Following the sudden surge of infections, some local governments have requested more experts to help with their urgent situation.

Lee Kyung-eun, Arirang News.
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