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UF upgrades hospital's biosecurity program
College of Veterinary Medicine spends $70,000 to avert outbreaks in large animal facility
Gainesville, Fla.-As the salmonella season draws near, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (UF) heightens its hospital's biosecurity to thwart the spread of infectious disease.
"We're not waiting for an outbreak," says Dr. Eleanor Green,chief-of-staff of the large animal teaching hospital. "The main thingwe're concerned about is salmonella. Our hospital has never been shut downdue to an outbreak, and we want it to stay that way."
UF equine veterinarians and students handle one of the highest caseloadsin the country, treating about 4,000 patients a year. With that in mind,the $70,000 price tag on biosecurity upgrades wasn't too much to spend,Green says.
"We figure it's the cost of doing business," she says. "It'sa lot cheaper than having the hospital closed for even a short period oftime."
Learning from experience
In fact, the changes are modeled after Colorado State University's (CSU)program, which was implemented in 1996 following a salmonella outbreak thatclosed the College of Veterinary Medicine's large animal hospital for twoweeks.
Cleaning and remodeling ran nearly half a million dollars, not includinglost revenue, which was never determined, says Dr. Josie Traub-Dargatz,hospital chief-of-staff.
"It was not only costly financially, it was costly in morale,"she says. "It took us six months from the first case to realize wehad a problem."
Being proactive means testing high-risk admittance for disease, especiallycolic horses, which are placed in segregated facilities. Students, facultyand technicians take special care in treating horses shedding salmonella,often isolating the animals from other patients. They wear waterproof gowns,take barrier precautions with clothing and practice good hygiene.
Also on board at UF is a full-time veterinary disease specialist, whoseday-to-day job includes educating veterinarians, staff and students aboutnew safety protocols.
"We're being aggressive," Green says. "Every hospitalhas some type of security program, but we're the only hospital that's beingthis extensive before we have a major outbreak."
Beyond the basics
But keeping a hospital disease-free goes beyond salmonella concerns,Traub-Dargatz says. "These measures should be taken to control everydisease and infectious spread within the hospital."
It also means keeping clients educated, Green adds.
"Clients want to know what we're doing and why," she says."So we made them a client fact sheet. We let them know about the risksand that we're taking these precautions for the health of their animal.
"If we didn't look for salmonella, we wouldn't find it. We wouldn'tknow there was a potential risk."