WHO issues omicron-specific quarantine, contact tracing guidance

Omicron's high transmissibility has overstretched contact tracing capabilities globally, prompting the World Health Organization to issue interim guidance Feb. 17. 

In the update, the WHO said it continues to call for a pragmatic approach to any changes made to existing measures to avoid "significant disruptions of essential services, including health services." 

"In places where there are surges in cases and essential services are under pressure, quarantine and contact tracing policies may need to be adjusted," the agency said in a statement. 

In areas with high caseloads, the WHO recommends public health authorities consider changing contact tracing efforts to prioritize contacts at highest risk of spreading or contracting the virus, those at highest risk of developing severe illness and healthcare workers. 

"Another consideration is the possible shortening of quarantine for contacts who test negative, do not develop symptoms and have recently received the primary series or a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine," the guidance document says.

Contact tracing has largely taken a backseat to vaccinations and mask-wearing in the U.S. At least a dozen states have scaled back contact tracing efforts, with many citing skyrocketing case numbers as the reason for ending or scaling back the work. Those who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations do not need to quarantine after an exposure unless they develop symptoms, according to CDC guidance


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