MAB RESOURCES · March 10th, 2021
Infectious Disease Control: 12 Ways to Prepare Your Practice
Preventing infectious disease transmission in the veterinary setting is critical to the health of our patients, clients, and staff. A lack of proper planning and diligence can have costly consequences and life-threatening implications. Regardless of size, every hospital should have a clearly defined system for handling and preventing transmission within its facilities. And practices that offer boarding, grooming, or isolation services will require additional methods to address the associated risks.
But no matter the scope of your services, every protocol for infection control should be:
- Implemented by sufficiently trained staff
- Enforced consistently
- Reviewed and updated regularly
To assist hospitals in the NVA community, we’ve highlighted 12 crucial components of any infection control plan, as well as other considerations and key resources. Taken together, these best practices can provide a framework for developing or enhancing protocols that meet the needs of your practice.
12 Crucial Components
An effective infection control and prevention plan should include:
- List of infectious diseases encountered in veterinary settings with summaries and clinical signs. For maximum comprehension, write them using language that all employees in the practice can easily understand. Technical documents designed for medical professionals that use medical terminology may be less clear to lay staff members. Each reference should contain:
- Short description of the infectious agent
- Symptoms of the disease it causes
- Expected prognosis
- Modes of transmission
- Length of time it remains in the environment
- Handling procedures for patients with known or suspected cases of infectious disease. To protect staff and patients from further spread, the process should account for any potential points of exposure – from arrival to departure.
- Hand washing methods that outline proper technique, effective products, and contact time
- Appropriate attire for staff members, e.g., gowns, gloves, masks, or other personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Disinfection procedures for all areas, including routine cleaning or sanitization of patient cages and runs, and surfaces in exam rooms, labs, treatment areas, lobbies or waiting rooms, sinks, grooming stations, patient food preparation areas, and flooring throughout the facility. Give extra consideration to surgical areas where specific cleaning materials are required to avoid contamination of sterile surfaces.
- Disinfection procedures for patient supplies, including routine cleaning or sanitization of food and water receptacles, leashes, bedding, toys, grooming supplies, and other reusable items
- Laundering process to adequately wash and sanitize soiled or contaminated linens, scrubs, etc.
- List of acceptable cleaning and disinfecting products with clear instructions for proper use and dilution
- Vaccination procedures, parasite screenings, and parasite control of patients
- Lab specimen handling and collection procedures
- Ventilation systems that reduce aerosolization of infectious particles and ensure necessary airflow patterns in patient housing and surgical areas
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) review of regulations and appropriate locations for human food and beverage consumption and storage
Reviews and Updates
Infection control plans should be reviewed often, at least once a year, especially when relevant changes occur. Some events that might necessitate a change include (but are not limited to):
- New or emerging diseases in the region
- New services, such as boarding or grooming
- New disinfectant product not previously used
- Structural changes in the facility that create new traffic patterns
Hospital management should remain vigilant of any event that will require modifications. The most recent version of your standards should be easily accessible to all staff members and available in written or digital formats.
Education and Diligence
Frequent training and education can help reinforce your infection control protocols and ensure consistent, effective execution. When developing your training program, confirm all staff members:
- Read and understand the policy (upon hire, or any time the policy is changed)
- Demonstrate proficiency at performing their role or duties in the overall plan
- Review the system regularly (at least once annually)
- Undergo retraining if standards are updated or if employees deviate from standards
In addition to training, hospital management should make sure that all actions are appropriately followed and address any breaches. To support these efforts, designate a willing and knowledgeable staff member to be your infectious disease control advocate. Ultimately, the management team bears legal responsibility for preventing the spread of infectious disease within the practice. Still, a passionate staff member can help provide an extra layer of vigilance.
For practices looking to create a written protocol, or update an existing one, here are a few excellent resources to guide your approach:
- AAHA: Infection Control, Prevention, and Biosecurity Guidelines // Download here →
- CDC: Veterinary Workplace Safety and Health Website // Visit here →
- Today’s Veterinary Practice: Preventing Transmission of Infectious Disease Among Patients // Visit here →
- The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) // Download here →
Questions? The Medical Advisory Board would like to know how we can help you optimize your daily practice life. Email us at MAB@NVA.com.
Download a printable version of this guide on NVA Share here.