ebola virus

(Source: AP)

As of this posting Ebola is continuing to rear its contagious head.  Reports of that sort usually deal with news bit and investigations as to how you can prevent forest fires getting sick yourself.  Not that those stories lack significance, but we aren’t given the full picture.

Besides the nurses, doctors, and medical professionals who are on the front-lines so to speak, it is more likely that the so-called “disease detectives” are most responsible for stopping the spread of the virus.

Though some may have a background in science and virology, the methods for catching this invisible killer are decidedly through time-tested detective work.

So when Ebola tested positive for Dallas resident Thomas Duncan, investigative teams were dispatch to the scene.

As opposed to microscopes and running bacterial experiments, these particular detectives duties comes from interviewing potential infected individuals. Halting further spread involves working backwards through a process call contact tracing.  This method beings with locating people within the Ebola patient’s (or this area patient zero) sphere of influence.  From there they would be sorted into those who had most contact with the sick, especially  after he/she began showing symptoms.


The headache of the contract tracing family tree. (Source: Huffington Post)

From there they will be monitored for a period of three weeks.  This helps too quickly isolate the infected should symptoms arrive.

Though a seemingly antiquated (not to mention complicated) system, it has shown to be effective in combating the virus.  Nigeria is one such example, with health officials going through methodical contract tracing measures after a Liberian man was visibly sick on a flight to Laos.  Though the process wasn’t easy, (with as many as 900 contacts and 18,500 check-in visits)  The results speak for themselves with no new cases in 30 days and the CDC declaring Ebola is officially contained in the populous African country.

Similarly private investigators have utilized such processes for various scenarios.  From a missing person to background checks, private investigators need certain information in order to solve the case.  Being detail-oriented, methodical, and the ability to obtain information from primary sources (interviewing those directly or indirectly related). It’s all in a days work for a detective of any sort, where ones method may not be as “cool” or gadget filled as the movies would make one believe, but evoking the theory of Occam’s Razor has helped solved cases and save lives.