The recent canine parvovirus outbreak has highlighted the importance of infection control, hygiene and inoculation when it comes to the furry members of our society. With a high mortality rate, even for dogs undergoing treatment, the virus presents a serious threat. Luckily the outbreak seems to be contained for now, but parvovirus is but one of a myriad microbes and pathogens which could potentially run rampant if hygiene is neglected. This is especially important for veterinary practices and animal hospitals, where rigorous adherence to infection prevention and control measures should be the norm.
Emma Corder, Managing Director of Industroclean, front runners in industrial cleaning products and machines, says that animal blood or droppings that are possibly contaminated must be dealt with quickly and carefully, especially in operating theatres and on surgical equipment. “Area disinfectants should be allowed ample contact time before wiping off, so as to eradicate as many microbes as possible”, she explains.
At world-class teaching facilities like the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic hospital, veterinary and veterinary nursing student training go hand-in-hand with multi-species patient care. This requires adherence to strict infection prevention protocols. These include the use of specialised products and cleaning regimens, and equipment such as disinfectant foot baths positioned in high-risk or sensitive areas. Isolation facilities are also utilised when necessary to reduce the risk of disease spread.
Many veterinary practices use a colour-coded system to clearly distinguish different risk areas within the facility and streamline sanitization protocols – for example a red tag on a kennel housing a patient with a highly infectious disease.
Corder emphasises that choosing the right products is vital and says all staff should be trained with regard to their proper usage. “There are thousands of choices, each with their own pros and cons. Among the six most common chemistries used to formulate most of the industry’s products, there are vast differences in the operational procedures involved: different required concentrations and contact-times, and different PPE ”, adding that prevention is the best way to safeguard against outbreaks of infectious diseases.
“Hand-washing is the cornerstone of good hygiene and infection control. Strict handwash protocols – using alcohol between patients or washing with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled – should be strictly adhered to”, she says.
Veterinary practitioners must ensure that the level of hygiene and sanitation in their premises match any human doctor’s rooms, including training on instrument and environmental hygiene which should be normalised in animal hospitals, just as it is in human health facilities.
According to the Virox ‘Infection Control and Biosecurity in Veterinary Medicine’, the modern veterinary world requires a holistic approach in which human, animal and environmental health are inseparably linked. Staff must work together to formulate appropriate protocols in each facility. This requires a team commitment to efficiently carry out a clearly defined sequence of tasks, with full accountability from each member for their role.
Corder explains that in larger facilities this means having several stations where cleaning and disinfecting supplies are readily available. “Moving around less also reduces the risk of disease spreading within the different areas of the facility itself”, she says.
Hygiene is everyone’s responsibility in the veterinary sphere and adherence to best practice should be more convenient for everyone than non-compliance. “From cleaners and receptionists through to surgeons and animal specialists, all staff members should understand their own role clearly, so as to ensure swift and thorough implementation of bio-security regimes”, Corder concludes.