It is clear that patients, veterinary personnel, and animal owners can be affected by healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) that can occur in veterinary care settings. There is good evidence that these risks can be substantial, both for epidemic disease (e.g. infection with Salmonella or viral respiratory agents) and for endemic risks related to common hazards (e.g. surgical site infections, infections related to intravenous or urinary catheters). Veterinarians have clear-cut ethical and legal responsibilities to minimize risks for infectious disease transmission in healthcare settings, and experts agree that there is a recognizable standard of practice for infection control in veterinary medicine.1,2
Paul S. Morley, DVM, DACVIM
Despite the general acceptance of these concepts, there is substantial evidence that the veterinary profession has not fully embraced the need to actively track and manage HAIs.2
Developing guidelines in your practice
All veterinary practices need to develop comprehensive infection control programs that are tailored to their specific facilities and patient populations.1 Several published references can guide development,3,4 and this type of focused effort has been shown to have a significant impact on the occurrence of HAIs. Good comprehensive programs will address all aspects of patient care, emphasizing the control of the most important and impacting problems.
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However, focusing on protocol development can give a false sense of security. To be maximally effective we need to actually work to document outcomes that we are trying to affect (e.g. surgical site infections).