Working with animals opens up veterinary professionals to unique bacterial and viral threats. Despite this, research published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice shows that even basic hygiene practices in small animal private practice are followed poorly — with less than 50% of study respondents reporting even regular hand washing between handling patients. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), a breach in infection control can undo even a veterinary team’s best work and lead to negative medical, social, and financial impacts on the patient, clients, and treating practitioners.
Let’s take the coronavirus as an example. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have published statements acknowledging that coronavirus outbreaks originate from animal-to-human transmission. Given its devastating impact, anyone in veterinary practice should do all they can to limit the risk of transmission to prevent human-to-human transmission of epidemic proportions.
Basic hand hygiene practices can keep veterinary staff safe from bacterial and viral threats. Something as simple as practicing hand hygiene and choosing the right new exam gloves for your practice can help you outsmart infection. Here’s what you need to know:
Veterinary hand hygiene best practices
The Compendium of Veterinary Standard Precautions emphasizes hand hygiene as the single most effective measure veterinary personnel can take to reduce the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases like coronavirus, because hands are routinely contaminated with organic material. According to the source, hand hygiene best practices combine the behavior of effective hand washing, grooming practices, and using high quality PPE such as gloves.
Handwashing forms the cornerstone of hand hygiene, and the following practices are recommended:
- • Handwashing with plain soap and running water, instead of relying on hand rubs. This mechanically removes organic material and reduces the number of transient organisms on the skin.
- • Antibacterial soaps may also be used routinely over plain soap, in liquid or foam form. This reduces the risk of cross-contamination between the veterinary team.
- • Refillable dispensers should be thoroughly cleaned between uses to prevent the build up of a bacterial reservoir.
- • Moisturizing soaps can be used to preserve skin integrity and encourage compliance.
- • Alcohol-based rubs may be used if hands aren’t visibly soiled, as they’re highly effective against bacteria and enveloped viruses.
- • If running water is unavailable, moist wipes followed by alcohol-based hand rubs may be used.
Handwashing is recommended between every contact with an animal and after contact with feces, blood, bodily fluids, exudates or any equipment that may be contaminated by them. Veterinary personnel who have regular animal contact are also recommended against wearing artificial or long nails, or wearing rings.
Choosing the right type of glove
There’s more to hand hygiene than just soap and water. The above source further recommends gloves as an additional way to reduce the risk of pathogen transmission by providing barrier protection. These should be changed between the examinations of individual animals or animal groups. But which gloves are the right ones for the job?
Medical grade exam gloves should be used for non-surgical encounters while sterile, surgical-grade gloves should be used for surgery.
However, even the best gloves on the market will be ineffective unless they fit personnel correctly and are made from the correct material. Gloves can be made from nitrile, latex or vinyl — read more about what differentiates them and how to find the right fit, here.
How to use gloves correctly
Gloves are most effective against infection when used correctly, in combination with hand hygiene best practices. They should be used when picking up animal waste, giving a patient medication, working with stool samples, or clearing a litter tray or tank, and when handling chemicals used in grooming.
Here are some pointers that help ensure veterinary personnel maximize their protection:
- • Don gloves only after performing hand hygiene
- • Never rinse or wash gloves, always replace them with a fresh pair
- • Change gloves immediately if they’re torn or punctured
- • If glove protection is needed for an extended period of time, change gloves regularly
- • Always dispose of gloves quickly and correctly
Our Ventyv® line of disposable glove products provides a wide variety of single-use exam gloves to meet a multitude of veterinary needs. Our gloves provide the strength and barrier protection needed to Outsmart Infection® — even when working with animals.
To learn more about these gloves and how they can help, filter products by “Veterinary” on our product page.