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Aurum conducts COVID-19 contact tracing

Aurum conducts COVID-19 contact tracing

After a medical doctor at an academic hospital in Gauteng tested positive for COVID-19, a team of Aurum staff were deployed to trace more than 300 patients who were possible contacts of the clinician.

Led by Professor Salome Charalambous, Aurum’s Deputy Chief Scientific Officer and a medical doctor, the team of 14 Aurum staff from multiple divisions, contributed to the national case finding effort. 

Nontobeko Ndlovu, a Medical Laboratory Scientist and Lungi Mbatha, an epidemiologist, both programme managers in Aurum’s research units, coordinated this work together with the Department of Health and National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

The team’s work involved calling more than 300 people and conducting telephonic screening for COVID-19, collecting nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs from symptomatic contacts, and screening immediate contacts of symptomatic patients. Asymptomatic contacts were counselled.

The team also conducted contact tracing of a smaller group within Aurum.

“The response from patients was very positive. Many were grateful that the Department of Health and the hospital (on whose behalf we were calling) were taking the initiative to track them and inform them of the possible exposure and ensure their safety. There was also a lot of concern and well wishes for the primary contact which was a moving display of humanity,” said Ndlovu.

The counselling involved allaying of fears using facts and guidelines from the World Health Organisation, the National Department of Health and NICD. “People were particularly relieved to hear that COVID-19 is not necessarily a death sentence, in fact the recovery rate is quite high,” said Ndlovu. We took the opportunity to share information and ensure that people know and are encouraged to take infection control measures and adhere to all safety regulations.

Ndlovu said they were now working on a journal article to contribute to the body of knowledge about COVID-19. “COVID came as a shock to everyone. As a health worker, research scientist and SA citizen, I am proud to be part of a high health impact organisation which is rising to the challenge brought on by this virus. And of course, as we navigate through this, we are ensuring the work on TB and HIV continues and in fact strengthened further due to the possible adverse effects of COVID-19, on progress made on TB and HIV care,” said Ndlovu.

 These are the members of this multi-disciplinary team.   

Prof Salome Charalambous: Medical Doctor and Chief Scientific Officer

Nontobeko Ndlovu: Medical Laboratory Scientist and Programme Manager

Lungile Mbatha: Epidemiologist and Programme Manager

Andrew Tlagadi: Medical Laboratory Scientist

Thobani Ntshiqa: Epidemiologist and Professional Nurse

Nontobeko Mokone: Professional Nurse and Community Psychologist

John Mdluli: Professional Nurse and Community Liaison Specialist

Keolebogile Ntshamane: Professional Nurse

Tebogo Ramphai: Professional Nurse

Fezeka Mboniswa: Social Scientist

Tanyaradzwa Dube: Social Scientist

Zithelo Zikalala: Community Liaison Officer

Samuel Tlhabakwane: Research Assistant

Samantha Naicker: Data Management

Naydene Slabbert: Data Management