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Alberta medical students help with COVID-19 contact tracing

Medical students in Alberta help with COVID-19 contact tracing. File / Global News

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the province, medical students in Alberta are stepping up to help health-care workers trace possible exposures to the virus among the public.

Dr. Lauren Bilinsky, a public health resident with Alberta Health Services, said students have been quick to offer their help amid the pandemic.

“We’re really lucky that we’ve able to partner with the [University of Calgary],” Bilinsky said in an interview with 770 CHQR.
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“We have 300 students who are helping us with this contact tracing, a lot of those are from the University of Calgary and are current senior medical students. We also have students from the University of Alberta as well.”

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Bilinsky said contact tracing is important in stopping the spread of the virus, as it helps health-care officials narrow down both where the virus was contracted and if other members of the public have possibly been exposed.

“Contact tracing is kind of the detective work of public health medicine,” she said.

“Essentially when we get a test back from a lab that says that it’s positive, it’s our students and the nurses who call up this patient and ask them a bit about what they’ve been doing over the past few weeks.

“We try and understand where the virus came from and we’re also doing a bit of a safety check to see if the virus could have been spread to anybody else.”

Bilinsky said students and health workers then make follow-up calls to anyone the person who’s tested positive has been in contact with.

LISTEN: Students help trace the COVID-19 virus in Alberta

Several other countries have implemented contact tracing efforts, Bilinsky said. She added, that so far in Alberta, the old-fashioned form of communication has proved effective.

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“Reaching out to people, letting them know that they are positive and also having that human connection in the health-care system is really positive in getting them to self-isolate,” she said.

“From other countries, we’ve seen that it’s quite effective, and with patients here in Alberta, there’s overall been a very positive response to our students and we’ve heard that people are self-isolating.”

READ MORE: Inside officials’ struggle to trace the contacts, movements of COVID-19 patients

Bilinsky said she was happy to see how eager medical students in the province have been to help.

“We sent out an email and within a couple of hours, 100 medical students had volunteered to help. It was amazing,” she said.

“There is a group of [nurses] that do contact tracing every day for different illnesses. It’s just that coronavirus has so many people that are ill, that we needed a lot more people to help us contact trace.”

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