Infection control in a veterinary hospital is a multifaceted problem requiring a multifaceted approach. Simply segregating contagious patients isn't enough for today's fast-mutating, antibiotic-resistant organisms. Start with these universal precautions:
- Limit the number of team members who come in contact with the infected animal. If they don't need to care for or treat the animal, keep them out. This includes visitors and clients.
- Practice good personal hygiene after all contact with sick animals and contaminated surfaces. This protects team members and helps minimize the spread of pathogenic organisms to other patients and inanimate objects like computer keyboards, telephones, and doorknobs.
- Wear gowns and gloves during contact with the sick animal or contaminated surfaces. And it does no good to use a gown or apron more than once. Hanging a community gown outside the door to the isolation room may allow pathogens to escape into the other hospital areas.
- Dispose of contaminated waste properly. Bag waste in the area where it was generated and place it inside another bag outside the infected area. Discard any material that won't be reused at the end of a case.
- Enforce cleaning and disinfecting procedures for contaminated surfaces. In most cases, any EPA-registered hospital detergent disinfectant is OK. Of course, you should follow the manufacturer's recommendations for dilution, contact time, and care in handling. And it's not advisable to mix chemicals since efficacy and safety cannot be ensured.
- Alert staff members to a sick animal's condition with signs (see below). Describe the precautions on the poster itself—team members may forget which colors mean what—and put the poster on the door to the isolation area so there's no confusion about necessary precautions.
Signs of infection
Philip Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with Veterinary Practice Consultants in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to email@example.com