Health Life

New DIY contact tracing app expands the fight against COVID-19, using the science of memory

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Imagine you begin to feel ill on Thursday, a few days after returning from a trip. You’re afraid it’s COVID-19, so you get tested on Friday. Even under good circumstances, it will probably be at least Monday before a contact tracer calls from the health department. And then some phone tag may ensue before you speak with anyone—if you get a call at all.

Once a contact tracer does reach you, you will be asked to remember all the people you were in close contact with, starting two days before you began feeling symptoms. That means recalling all the places you went and the people you saw over the past week.

It isn’t easy. As time passes, memories fade. Unfortunately, your contacts, unaware they were exposed to the , may have already infected others.

Concerned about those delays, three of us and our colleague Ronald Fisher, all psychology professors with expertise in memory, developed a way for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 to effectively trace their recent contacts on their own.

Self-driven shouldn’t replace health department efforts. Professional teams of trained contact tracers are critical for locating the people you came in contact with but don’t know, such as at a restaurant or on an airplane, and then tracing the next ring of contacts. However, jump-starting the effort on your own can improve your chances of remembering and allow you to warn your contacts sooner.

Notifying contacts faster

Contact tracing, along with testing and isolating people who are infected, is considered crucial for controlling the coronavirus’s spread until a vaccine becomes widely available.

Health department contact tracers try to notify and interview anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes

Health article

Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC

A Closer Look at How COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Work

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle. Once the instructions (mRNA) are inside the muscle cells, the cells use them to make the protein piece. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them.

Next, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19.

At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.

Source link