Active Covid-19 Surveillance Needed For Health Workers: Expert

Health care workers who experience mild Covid-19 symptoms should not go to work and get tested instead if necessary, says an infectious disease expert from UM.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Health care workers need to undergo active surveillance for Covid-19, an infectious disease expert from University Malaya said. 

Dr Sasheela Sri La Sri Ponnampalavanar, during a recent webinar organised by the Institute of Clinical Research (ICR) on “Infection Prevention and Control of Covid-19 In Wards”, said there should be a system in place in hospitals, whereby active surveillance is done among health care workers, such as returning travellers and close contacts. 

“Health care workers exposed to patients with confirmed Covid-19 need to undergo active surveillance, risk assessment, and quarantine,” Dr Sasheela said. 

The professor from UM also said that health care workers should not come to work even with mild Covid-19 symptoms and they should get tested instead. 

“Health care workers who have symptoms — there should be a low threshold for them to not come to work or inform supervisors and seek medical attention immediately and get a swab done if necessary.”

Dr Sasheela added that health care workers who are high-risk, like those who are immunosuppressed, should not be allowed to manage Covid-19 cases. 

She also said that all health care workers should be trained on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and standard operating procedures in the hospital. 

Besides that, Dr Sasheela said that ideally, all those who are conducting Covid-19 screening should change their gown and gloves every time they touch a patient. 

“You’re definitely protecting yourself, but you’re not protecting the patient that way when you wear a glove and you don’t remove it.”

She said that if extended use of PPE is required during screening, then health care workers conducting screening should use a plastic apron over their gown.

Meanwhile, Dr Sasheela said health care workers who are vaccinating people against Covid-19 just need to wear a face mask and face shield as recommended by the Ministry of Health. 

It is unknown how many health care workers have been infected with Covid-19 or died from the disease in Malaysia. Several public hospitals in the Klang Valley experienced outbreaks late last year that ran until last January.

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