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New Emirates Medical Journal

Volume 1, 2 Issues, 2020
ISSN: 0250-6882 (Online)
This journal supports open access

Open Access Article

Knowledge and Perception of COVID-19 among Healthcare Professionals in the United Arab Emirates: A Cross-sectional Online Survey



Akshaya Srikanth Bhagavathula10000-0002-0581-7808, Abdullah Shehab2, *0000-0001-8533-9174
1 Institute of Public Health, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, UAE University, Al Ain, UAE
2 Department of Cardiology, Al Ain Hospital, Al Ain, UAE

Abstract

Background:

During the first week of March, a large number of cases of COVID-19 were reported across the world including the UAE.

Aim:

To assess the knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19 among HCPs in the UAE.

Methods:

During the first week of March, a cross-sectional study was conducted among EMA HCPs. A 23-item survey questionnaire on knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19, including specific questions related to the different sources of information was used. Each correct response was scored as “1” and wrong as “0”. The sum of the knowledge scores ≤4 out of 7 was considered as poor knowledge and the sum of the perception scores (score >5 out of 7) as a positive perception.

Results:

A total of 353 HCPs completed the study and half of them were male (n=178; 50.4%), doctors (n=257;72.8%), and aged between 35-44 years (n=116; 32.9%). Although most of the participants were aware of COVID-19 (n=350; 99.2%), only a limited (n=168;47.6%) proportion of them got the opportunity to attend lectures/discussions related to COVID-19. Government websites (43.1%) and news bulletins (36%) were the primary sources for COVID-19 information. HCPs' knowledge about COVID-19 was found to be satisfactory (58.4%) and their perceptions were positive (78.5%).

Conclusion:

As the number of COVID-19 cases is consistently increasing in the UAE, it is important to improve the level of knowledge and perceptions among HCPs. Educational interventions focusing on prevention and control of COVID-19 should be prioritized to empower HCPs in infectious disease outbreaks.

Keywords: COVID-19, Knowledge, Perception, Health care professionals, Questionnaire, United Arab Emirates.


Article Information


Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2020
Volume: 1
Issue: 2
First Page: 22
Last Page: 25
Publisher Id: nemj-1-22
DOI: 10.2174/0250688201999200713195408

Article History:

Electronic publication date: 15/07/2020
Collection year: 2020

© 2020 Bhagavathula and Shehab.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Correspondence: Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Cardiology, Al Ain Hospital, Al Ain, UAE;
E-mail: heartdr123@googlemail.com





During the first week of March 2020, COVID-19 cases reached over 100,000 cases worldwide and only 30 cases reported in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [1]. The UAE health authorities have taken several initiations to increase the awareness and preparation activities among frontline healthcare providers [2]. Under the guidance and directions of the Emirates Medical Association (EMA), the New Emirates Medical Journal (NEMJ) took an initiation to investigate the level of knowledge, information sources, and perceptions related to COVID-19 among EMA members healthcare practitioners in the country. This study aimed to assess the knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19 among healthcare professionals (HCPs) in the UAE.

This study is a cross-sectional study conducted on an online platform and distributed among EMA members during the first week of March 2020. The EMA is a non-profit organization of health practitioners in the UAE and comprises around 3000 active members. For this study, the NEMJ surveyed HCPs through emails, and the survey instrument was made accessible through a URL link.

The survey questionnaire consisted of 23 closed-ended questions on knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19, including specific questions related to the different sources of information. Briefly, the survey instrument was divided into three parts: characteristics of survey participants (3 items), COVID-19 related awareness (2 items), knowledge about symptoms (2 items), modes of transmission (2 items), prevention and risk prevention (3 items), and their perceptions of COVID-19 (7 items/true or false questions). Besides, four statements related to self-reported information sources on COVID-19 (4-point Likert scale: 1 [least used] to 4 [most used]). The developed questionnaire was validated among HCPs and was described elsewhere [3].

Each correct response is scored as “1” and wrong as “0”. The sum of the knowledge score ≤4 was considered as poor knowledge, while >4 as adequate knowledge about COVID-19. A similar assessment was followed for perception related questions (7 items) and each correct response was labeled as “1” and these scores ranged from 0 to 7. The sum of the perception scores are classified as good (score >5) or poor (score ≤5). The obtained data were summarized as frequencies and percentages and chi-square test was applied to investigate the level of association among variables.

In total, 353 HCPs completed the questionnaire and their sociodemographic characteristics are shown in Table 1. Although every participant agreed that they heard about COVID-19 (n=350; 99.2%), however, only 47.6% (n=168) got the opportunity to attend lectures or discussions related to COVID-19. When asked about the reliable source of information about COVID-19, HCPs mentioned that they primarily used Government websites (n=152, 43.1%) and news media (n=127, 36%). Moreover, they also discussed COVID-19-related topics with their family and friends (n=144, 40.8%) (Fig. 1).

The knowledge and perception of COVID-19 varied across different categories of HCPs in the UAE and are summarized in Table 2. Our study revealed a significant knowledge gap between doctors, dentists, and other allied health professionals. For instance, only 37.4% (n=96) of the doctors, 35.7% of dentists (n=15), and 29.6% of allied HCPs (n=16) thought the COVID-19 originated from bats. The majority of the doctors agreed that COVID-19 leads to pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death, and that supportive care is the only treatment option that is available for treating COVID-19 patients (77.1%, P<0.001). However, only 60% of doctors, dentists (66.7%) and allied HCPs (63%) recognized symptoms of COVID-19. A significant proportion of doctors (81.7%), and allied HCPs (87%) agreed that maintaining hand hygiene, covering their nose and mouth while coughing, and avoiding contact with sick patients could help to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

More than 80% of the HCPs exhibited positive perceptions of COVID-19. A majority of HCPs knew that COVID-19 is not a fatal disease (84.1%) and the flu vaccination is not sufficient to prevent COVID-19 (86.7%). Also, they knew that symptoms appear in 2-14 days (81.6%), and all the sick patients should share their recent travel history to HCPs (n=313, 88.7%; P=0.047). However, only three-forth of the doctors (n=194, 75.5%), 64.3% of dentists, and 72.2% of allied HCPs agreed that all equipment used in wet markets should be cleaned with disinfectant every day.

Overall, the study identified a substantial proportion of HCPs (41.6%, P=0.007) exhibited poor knowledge (≤4 scores) about COVID-19, and a majority of them are allied HCPs (61.1%). Most of the participants (78.5%) had a positive perception (scored: >5) to prevent and control of COVID-19 (Table 3).

Fig. (1)
Sources of COVID-19 information.

Table 1
Characteristics of the healthcare professionals (N=353).

Table 2
Summary of knowledge and perception survey findings (N=353).

Table 3
Level of knowledge and perception among healthcare professionals in the UAE.

At present, the mounting number of COVID-19 cases in the UAE surpassed 40,000 raising pressures for everyone, including health officials. An important initiation by the NEMJ to investigate the level of knowledge and perceptions to prevent and control of COVID-19 among frontline HCPs at the pandemic level. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study conducted in the UAE during the first week of March 2020. The findings of this study suggested a significant gap between the amount of information available on COVID-19 and the extent of knowledge among HCPs in the UAE, particularly about the origin of virus, symptoms, and incubation period of COVID-19. Additionally, many of the HCPs had inaccurate knowledge of COVID-19 on its origin, incubation period, treatment for COVID-19 affected patients, and symptoms of COVID-19 (among doctors). Similar studies conducted in various settings also identified poor knowledge among HCPs [3-7]. This is unfortunate because of the number of resources that are provided by the health authorities from the inception of the outbreak to educate HCPs and improve their level of understanding about COVID-19. Furthermore, these differences in their knowledge may be due to differences in their level of education about infectious diseases, microbiology, and pharmacotherapy.

In this study, around three-fourth (75%) HCPs showed a positive perception to prevent and control of COVID-19. However, a quarter (24.1%) of the allied HCPs, dentists (23.8%), and 20.6% of the doctors exhibited negative perception of COVID-19 during the pandemic period. This is important as it can delay the recognition and handling of potential COVID-19 patients and implicate the rapid spreading of infection in hospitals. In general, prior studies have emphasized that during outbreaks the knowledge of HCPs about the diseases can influence the perception due to their past experiences [8, 9]. In this regard, further studies are warranted to better understand the factors that influence perception.

The study has some limitations. First, this is a cross-sectional study conducted among EMA member HCPs during the pandemic time (WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic). Second, the responses provided are self-reported and may subject to recall bias. Third, the study was conducted among HCPs in the UAE that warrant generalizability. Lastly, the participation in this study is voluntary and no financial incentives are provided. Despite these limitations, this study provided valuable information about the knowledge and perception of COVID-19 among HCPs in the UAE.

In conclusion, the HCPs in the UAE appear to have important knowledge gaps, source of information, and discrepancies in their perceptions of COVID-19 between doctors, dentists, and other HCPs. Correcting these knowledge gaps through educational interventions are urgently needed.

DISCLOSURE

ASB is the Associate Editor and Prof. Shehab is the Editor-in-chief of the NEMJ.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The authors declare no conflict of interest, financial or otherwise.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors would like to thank Emirates Medical Association for waiving the ethical approval.

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Editor-in-Chief

Abdullah Shehab
Emirates Cardiac Society
Emirates Medical Association
Dubai
(UAE)

Biography
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Acceptance rate = 40%

Average review speed: 45 days average

18 days from acceptance to publication



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