Demography and COVID-19 Symptoms of South African Oral Health Workers in an Academic Hospital
Oral health care workers constitute a high-risk profession to contract COVID-19. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and clinical experience of COVID-19 infected oral health workers at an academic hospital in Gauteng, South Africa. A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study was conducted among staff who contracted COVID-19 betweenMay and December 2020. Data was captured in Excel and analyzed with Stata (StataCorp, USA). COVID-19 prevalence among 219 members of staff was
22.4%, and 46 participated. The majority ranged in age between 31- 40 years (n=18, 39%, 95% CI 25.78-54.32) and 41 – 50 years (n=19, 41%, 95% CI 7.88-56.4). Clinicians and dental assistants constituted 48%, while 76% perceived to be infected at work, with 72.7% sharing an office with ≥ 3 persons. Twenty-four staff members received post-test counselling, of whom 21.7% were counselled at work. Sixteen participants remained asymptomatic while most prevalent self-reported COVID-19 symptoms included cough (47.7%), sore throat (27.3%) and shortness of breath (20.5%). Significantly more females (55%) reported no COVID-19 symptoms than males (Chi2
test, p = 0.01). The COVID-19 prevalence in this study was much higher than previously reported for oral health workers in an
academic setting. The high percentage of staff who remained asymptomatic raises the possibility of more staff being infected without being tested. Infection prevention and awareness training of all staff should be routinely provided and mitigating measures instituted to reduce office occupancy, including adequate post-test counselling
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