We propose a deterministic model capturing essential features of contact tracing as part of public health non-pharmaceutical interventions to mitigate an outbreak of an infectious disease. By incorporating a mechanistic formulation of the processes at the individual level, we obtain an integral equation (delayed in calendar time and advanced in time since infection) for the probability that an infected individual is detected and isolated at any point in time. This is then coupled with a renewal equation for the total incidence to form a closed system describing the transmission dynamics involving contact tracing. We define and calculate basic and effective reproduction numbers in terms of pathogen characteristics and contact tracing implementation constraints. When applied to the case of SARS-CoV-2, our results show that only combinations of diagnosis of symptomatic infections and contact tracing that are almost perfect in terms of speed or coverage can attain control, unless additional measures to reduce overall community transmission are in place. Under constraints on the testing or tracing capacity, the interruption of contact tracing may be irreversible and, depending on the overall growth rate and prevalence of the disease, may lead to outbreaks even in cases when the epidemic was initially under control.
|Number of pages
|Published - 2021