Contact tracing, this word got a negative connotation during the corona pandemic. It is reminiscent of overburdened health authorities, of address lists in restaurants and bars, and of an app that barely served its purpose. With the corona virus, contact tracing has largely failed, no question. However, this was not due to the measure itself, but to the pathogen.
An outbreak of tuberculosis occurred in a nursing home and a nursing school in Chemnitz this week. A nursing student is ill, 75 contact persons have been examined according to the city administration. Another sick person was found, around 25 were infected - but not yet sick and therefore not contagious. Two suspected cases would also be checked. We are looking for further contacts. And there is good reason to believe that tracking will be successful in this case.
For one thing, there's a number: eight hours. On average, that is how long a person has to stay in a room or means of transport with a person suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis for infection to occur. If the infection load with the pathogen bacterium is lower in the person concerned, it even takes 40 hours for transmission. With the corona virus, on the other hand, infection can occur if you were only exposed to the virus for 15 minutes.
Like the corona virus, the tuberculosis pathogen is also spread via aerosols, i.e. tiny droplets in the air. However, writes the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the infection is not that easy. This is also due to the fact that the infectious tuberculosis bacteria are mainly excreted when you sneeze and cough. An infection by a completely asymptomatic infected person is unlikely. This means that contact persons are much easier to find because they must have spent a lot of time with the sick person - an advantage in tracking.
Tuberculosis is therefore not harmless. Your pathogen from the family of mycobacteria mainly affects the lungs, but can also be dangerous to many other organs. Globally, deaths from tuberculosis have increased slightly in recent years, in Europe there is an accumulation of cases in eastern countries. People with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible, so an outbreak in a nursing home is tricky. Doctors are also concerned that more and more strains of the tuberculosis bacterium are spreading. However, if tuberculosis is detected early, it can usually still be treated effectively.
The statistics show that tuberculosis outbreaks in Germany can usually be well contained. According to an RKI report, there has been no major outbreak in this country in recent years. Sometimes two, sometimes four people fell ill. In one single case, seven contact persons from the immediate family environment contracted the disease - presumably because they spent a lot of time together. Unless the health authorities make any major mistakes, no major infection is to be expected in Chemnitz either.