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Most people know you can catch a cold from someone who has one. This is why sales of hand sanitizers take off during “cold season” and why people with the sniffles are asked to call in sick or work from home — they hope to minimize the spread of their illness. When a more serious outbreak develops, health authorities may undertake contact tracing or partner notification, a method of identifying and following up with everyone who came into contact with people known to be infected.

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1. Origins of Contact Tracing

Health authorities have been using contact tracing for decades to help curb the spread of infectious diseases. Companies dedicated to the practice and public health workers travel worldwide, including to Haiti, Peru, and Rwanda, to identify and track many infectious diseases, from tuberculosis and HIV to sexually transmitted diseases.

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