AAHA issues guidelines on infection control

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Masked surgeon pulling on gloveHospital-acquired infections are an ongoing battle for health care facilities in both human and veterinary medicine. The American Animal Hospital Association has released the first AAHA Infection Control, Prevention, and Biosecurity Guidelines to provide ways for veterinary professionals to tackle this problem and prevent the spread of disease in veterinary practices.

According to the abstract: "A veterinary team's best work can be undone by a breach in infection control, prevention, and biosecurity (ICPB). Such a breach, in the practice or home-care setting, can lead to medical, social, and financial impacts on patients, clients, and staff, as well as damage the reputation of the hospital. To mitigate these negative outcomes, the AAHA ICPB Guidelines Task Force believes that hospital teams should improve upon their current efforts by limiting pathogen exposure from entering or being transmitted throughout the hospital population and using surveillance methods to detect any new entry of a pathogen into the practice."

The guidelines offer standard operating procedures to guide the veterinary team in creating a clean and safe environment. Among the procedures are cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, use of personal protective equipment, identifying high-risk patients, and managing contagious patients in isolation.

The guidelines also include a staff training video to help team members achieve a safe environment, personalized checklists of tasks to improve compliance, evaluation tools to ensure success, staff and client educational materials, and a process for designating team members to become infection control practitioners.

Dr. Jason W. Stull, an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, chaired the task force that prepared the guidelines. In a Nov. 7 AAHA announcement, he said: "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 greatest potential for success into a succinct 'how-to manual.' 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."

The guidelines are available in the November/December issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association or online.