Just like any other medical setting, there are many dangers to employees, patients, and patient owners within a veterinary clinic. Of the various dangers within a veterinarian’s office, none can really prove more dangerous than contracting infections; as doing so can be fatal:
Each year there are around 2 million infections that are acquired in health care settings in the United States, and approximately 90 000 deaths result from those infections.
Around 90,000 deaths per year occur from infections contracted in medical settings, including veterinary clinics. In order to lower this number, it’s imperative that veterinary offices take every preventative measure they can in order to stop the contraction of infections. The CCAR has published guidelines to follow to make mitigating infections in a vet clinic a reality:
- Infection prevention and control strategies are designed to protect patients, owners, veterinary personnel and the community. All veterinary personnel should play an active role in protecting every person and animal associated with the veterinary clinic.
- Every veterinary clinic, regardless of type or size, should have a formal infection control program, a written infection control manual, and an infection control practitioner (ICP) to coordinate the program.
- Some form of surveillance (either passive or active) should be practiced by all veterinary facilities. The keys to passive surveillance are to centralize the available data, and to have a designated ICP who compiles and evaluates the data on a regular basis.
- Routine Practices that are critical to infectious disease prevention and control:
- Hand hygiene, including:
- Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- Risk reduction strategies, particularly those related to:
- Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Cleaning and disinfection
- Waste Management
- Risk assessment of animals and personnel with regard to:
- Disease Transmission
- Disease Susceptibility
- Veterinary Personnel
- Animal Owners
- Hand hygiene, including:
- All surgical procedures cause breaks in the normal defensive barriers of the skin or mucous membranes, and therefore carry an inherent risk of surgical site infection (SSI). Good general infection control practices (e.g. hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection) are important for prevention of SSIs, but there are also specific infection control measures pertaining to surgery that should be considered.
- Every veterinary clinic should have an isolation area for caring for and housing animals with potentially contagious infectious diseases.
- Proper wound care is critical to preventing transmission of bacteria, particularly multidrug-resistant pathogens between animals, personnel and the environment.
- Animals from shelters and similar facilities should be considered high risk from an infectious disease standpoint and managed appropriately to prevent transmission of disease.
- Safety of personnel and animal owners should always be a priority. Personnel should take all necessary precautions to prevent animal-related injuries (e.g. bites, scratches), and all bite wounds should be taken seriously. Proper sharps handling practices should be emphasized to reduce the risk of needle-stick injuries.
- Education of personnel and clients about zoonotic and infectious disease risks and prevention is crucial.
The above 10 guidelines are an effective foundation to build a risk management strategy to fight against infections contracted within a veterinary clinic. Put to effective use, these steps can help to mitigate the spreading of infection, and ultimately mitigate the exposure and risk of the veterinary practice as a whole.
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