Infection Prevention: 
The Time Is Now

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The chair of AAHA’s Infection Control Task Force says now is the time to assess infection prevention and control products and plans with veterinary clinics.

Like most healthcare professionals amid the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinarians have questions. “Veterinarians are wondering what precautions they need to take in terms of interacting with the public,” said Jason Stull, VMD, MPVM, Ph.D., DACVPM, assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Other questions that veterinarians want to be answered include:

  • Do they need to be worried about the pets themselves when it comes to COVID-19?
  • How does this affect the continuity of how their clinic operates?
  • What steps can they take to ensure their staff stays healthy?

There are also infection control products and supplies to be thinking about – surgery masks, for instance. Veterinarians will need them, but with the demand on the human medical side, will there be limitations? And what about other products such as gloves, disinfectant, and alcohol-based hand sanitizers?


Distributor reps can help their veterinary clinic customers navigate the supply situation. In fact, now is the time to assess whether the veterinary clinic has the proper infection control products and a procedure in place, Stull said.

“Anything we can do that provides resources for our end users is beneficial,” said Stull. “Those end users are going to be everyone from the head of the veterinary clinic down to the front end staff and even volunteers.”

Distributor reps can help break down each aspect of the veterinary clinic’s business and how infection prevention effects that part of the business, then recommend the best products for those areas. This helps ensure the veterinary team has all the tools to implement an effective infection control plan and to implement it “in a logical way,” Stull said. “It’s important to help the individual veterinary team members understand what each of those particular products or pieces do, so they can function best with infection control in mind.”

Guidelines

Dr. Stull was chair of the AAHA Infection Control Task Force that put together the 2018 AAHA Infection Control, Prevention, and Biosecurity Guidelines, which offer practical standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide the veterinary team in creating a clean and safe environment. SOPs answer many of these questions, including proper cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, identifying high-risk patients, managing contagious patients in isolation, and much more.

In addition to the SOPs, these guidelines include an engaging staff training video to empower team members to ensure a safe environment, personalized checklists of key tasks to improve compliance, evaluation tools to ensure success, valuable staff and client educational materials, a process for elevating key team members to become “infection control practitioners,” and much more.

“We have approached this area from the perspective of the busy veterinary team member, often with little background in infection control, and distilled the key practices with the greatest potential for success into a succinct ‘how-to manual.’” said Stull. “With these guidelines, every practice can have an infection control program of which they can be proud and that will protect patient, owner, and personnel health.”

“A focus on infection control measures in veterinary practices is essential, now more than ever, especially with the increase in emerging and antimicrobial-resistant organisms,” said AAHA Infection Control Task Force member Glenda Dvorak, MS, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, assistant director for the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “These guidelines were created to help practitioners identify areas for improvement as well as recognize things they may already be doing well.”

AAHA guidelines review the latest information to help veterinary teams address central issues and perform essential tasks to improve the health of their patients, and are available online at aaha.org/biosecurity.

Ways to help veterinary clinics with infection control

Assess. Does the veterinary clinic have a defined infection control plan? Do they have the proper infection control products? Do they have the right amount?

Review. Distributor reps can help break down each aspect of the veterinary clinic’s business and how infection prevention effects that part of the business, then recommend the best products for those areas.

Notify. It’s important that veterinary clinics don’t break down into panic buying. Distributor reps can be a source of calm for the clinics by providing knowledge on the supply situation and updates if things change.