con·tact • n. / ˈkänˌtakt/ 1. the state or condition of physical touching: the tennis ball is in contact with the court surface for as little as 5 milliseconds. ∎ the state or condition of communicating or meeting: he had lost contact with his friends. ∎ [as adj.] activated by or operating through physical touch: contact dermatitis. ∎ a connection for the passage of an electric current from one thing to another, or a part or device by which such a connection is made. ∎ (contacts) contact lenses. 2. a meeting, communication, or relationship with someone. ∎ a person who may be communicated with for information or assistance, esp. with regard to one's job. ∎ a person who has associated with a patient with a contagious disease (and so may carry the infection). • v. / ˈkänˌtakt; kənˈtakt/ [tr.] communicate with (someone), typically in order to give or receive specific information. DERIVATIVES: con·tact·a·ble / ˈkänˌtaktəbəl; kənˈtak-/ adj.
A contact is a person or animal that has been in association with a disease-infected person or animal in such a way as to have had an opportunity to acquire the infection and be capable of transmitting it. A contact may not be ill or have any overt signs or symptoms of infection, yet may nevertheless transmit the infection to others who are susceptible to the infection. The word also describes the mode of transmission of infection, which may be either by direct (person-to-person) or indirect contact. Indirect contact includes transmission of infection via contaminated clothing or utensils, through an intermediary living creature such as a rat or domestic animal, or by insect vectors in which the infectious pathogen passes part of its life cycle.
Symptomless, and apparently healthy, infected individuals are a very important category of contacts. Many sexually transmitted diseases, many food-borne gastrointestinal infections, and several of the common infectious diseases are spread by apparently healthy contacts. Contact tracing is therefore an essential part of the process of surveillance and control of communicable diseases, especially sexually transmitted diseases. Quarantine was once a common method of restricting the movements of known contacts of contagious diseases such as diphtheria, and of diseases erroneously believed to be contagious, notably poliomyelitis.
John M. Last
(see also: Carrier; Communicable Disease Control; Contagion; Cordon Sanitaire; Quarantine )
Contact ★★½ 1997 (PG)
Thought-provoking (if overlong) drama rather than scifi spectacular (though it has its fair share of special effects). Radio astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway (Foster) discovers signals being transmitted from the distant star Vega. When they're deciphered, the signals turn out to be blueprints for a craft that will take its occupant into space and a first meeting with aliens. Ellie fights to become that first spokesperson for Earth's inhabitants. More philosophical than the usual scifi alien encounter epic, but the excellent cast, led by Foster, pulls it off nicely. Based on the novel by Carl Sagan. 150m/C VHS, DVD . Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett, John Hurt, David Morse, Rob Lowe, Jake Busey, William Fichtner, Geoffrey Blake, Jena Malone; D: Robert Zemeckis; W: Michael Goldenberg; C: Don Burgess; M: Alan Silvestri.