VETERINARY TECHNICIANS: THE KEY TO CLINIC INFECTION CONTROL AND PROTECTING PATIENTS FROM DISEASE DR. JASON STULL, VMD, MPVM, PHD, DACVPM
4 Hand hygiene (hand cleaning) is considered to be the most important measure to prevent HAIs in healthcare facilities. This process involves the removal of disease- causing organisms from hands using either soap and water or alcohol- based and sanitizer. Studies show that hand hygiene compliance among veterinary staff is relatively poor (i.e., performing at < 50% of the times it is indicated). Increasing hand hygiene of veterinary staff (through convenience by using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, education, and motivation) can have a large impact on reducing HAIs in veterinary clinics for relatively little cost. Every team member should know: • When to perform: immediately before and after contact with a patient or environment, after contact with a patient’s body fluids, before putting on gloves and especially after glove removal, before eating, after using the restroom • How to perform: by rubbing hands for a minimum of 20 seconds into all aspects of hands, with special attention to fingertips, between fingers, backs of hands and base of the thumbs • What to use: using soap and water when hands are visibly soiled or there is suspicion for a pathogen that is relatively resistant to alcohol-based hand sanitizer (i.e., Clostridium, non-enveloped virus such as parvovirus); otherwise alcohol-based hand sanitizer is preferred given its comparable ease of use.
5 Due to the potential for pathogens in the environment to be picked up by animals and people, attention to appropriate cleaning and disinfection protocols is important in preventing HAIs. Cleaning involves the removal of visible organic matter (e.g., feces, urine, dirt) with soap or detergent, whereas disinfection involves the application of a chemical to kill the remaining microbes. Some pathogens are highly resistant to disinfection; cleaning in these circumstances is particularly important to mechanically remove the organisms. The appropriate steps for cleaning and disinfection should be carefully followed: • Cleaning to remove gross contamination (if a detergent was used, rinse with clean water)
• Allow area to dry or do so manually • Apply disinfectant at the appropriate concentration and ensure the adequate contact time (time required for disinfectant to remain wet on the surface to kill the pathogens) • Rinse with clean water (especially important for disinfectants that leave a residue or for surfaces vulnerable to damage from the disinfectant). Selection of an appropriate disinfectant requires consideration of many factors, including spectrum of efficacy, staff safety, convenience, and cost. Resources are available to guide you.
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