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CDA Practice Support offers information for dental practices concerned about disease transmission

CDA Practice Support has received inquiries from CDA members and staff regarding the recent spread of the new coronavirus to California. In China, the virus has affected more than 8,000 people and killed more than 200, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency to mobilize resources to contain the spread of the disease. Although a few individuals in the U.S. have been diagnosed, most had traveled in China where they were exposed to the virus. There is now one reported U.S. incident of person-to-person transmission in Chicago where a man contracted the virus from his wife, who had visited China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states the immediate risk to the American public is still low.

It is important for dental teams to understand that screening procedures are similar, regardless of whether the aerosol transmissible disease is coronavirus, measles, chickenpox or the flu. An important part of the Cal/OSHA-required ATD screening process is to do a community risk assessment:

  • Consider whether high-risk factors are present in the patient population (for example, international travel or anti-vaccine sentiments).
  • Determine the incidence of ATD cases in the greater community by checking your local public health department website.

If a dental practice determines there is a medium to high risk of an ATD exposure, staff should ask each patient if they are experiencing symptoms characteristic of the particular ATD. The CDC offers interim coronavirus guidance for health care professionals. If not actively questioning patients because there is a low risk of ATD exposure, dental personnel should observe each patient’s general health condition, noting symptoms such as coughing and fever and, if symptoms are present, questioning the patient about other symptoms and ATD risk factors such as exposure to an individual with an ATD. If a patient is identified as possibly having an ATD, isolate the patient, provide them with a mask and, in most instances, refer them to their health care provider and reschedule dental care. If the patient is suspected of having the coronavirus, take the additional step of notifying the public health department.

The Cal/OSHA aerosol transmissible disease standard requires dental practices to screen patients. The procedures for screening should be included in your practice’s Injury and Illness Prevention Plan and staff must be trained on screening procedures. The regulation was developed soon after the SARS outbreak several years ago in anticipation of other outbreaks of unknown viruses.

Additionally, CDA reminds employers that they should consult with an employment attorney before limiting an employee’s work due to that employee’s travel to China. Each situation requires an individual risk assessment. CDA will keep members informed about coronavirus in the Update, in the cda.org newsroom and in the newsletter. Members with questions may contact CDA Practice Support at 800.232.7645.

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