Poor Infection-Control Habits Sicken Australian VetsPoor Infection-Control Habits Sicken Australian Vetsinfection, Sydney, veterinarian, equipment, study, Dhand, animal, patient, mask, gown Nearly half of all surveyed Australian veterinarians have contracted an infection from a patient, according to researchers at the University of Sydney, who found that many practitioners failed to protect themselves adequately when exposed to sick animals.75 percent of veterinarians used adequate protection, such as masks, gowns and gloves, to prevent infection while performing postmortems, dental procedures and surgeries, a University of Sydney survey found.newsline Posted: May 14, 2013, 2:35 p.m. EDT Nearly half of all surveyed Australian veterinarians have contracted an infection from a patient, according to researchers at the University of Sydney, who found that many practitioners failed to protect themselves adequately when exposed to sick animals.
The study, published Monday in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine, documented rampant noncompliance with infection-control standards.
"There is an urgent need for our profession to better educate vets about protecting themselves, and by extension the general public, against contracting infection from animals,” said principal investigator Navneet Dhand, MACVSc, MVSc, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.
To their credit, 75 percent of veterinarians used adequate protection, such as masks, gowns and gloves, to prevent infection while performing postmortems, dental procedures and surgeries, the survey found.
The numbers were lower in other scenarios. Sixty to 70 percent protected themselves from animals showing signs of respiratory and neurological disease, and 40 to 50 percent took safeguards with animals bearing signs of gastrointestinal and dermatological disease.
The survey of 344 veterinarians attending an Australian Veterinary Association Conference discovered:
• 45 percent of Australian veterinarians got an infection from an animal during their professional lives.
• 35 percent of workplaces lacked isolation units for animals diagnosed with contagious or known infectious diseases.
• 21 percent of workplaces did not separate staff eating areas from the animals.
"The results of the study are concerning,” Dr. Dhand said. "Our profession appears to have a complacent attitude towards the use of personal protection.
"It is worth remembering that zoonotic diseases, such as equine Hendra virus and avian influenza, represent 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases for humans,” he added.
The study was conducted to determine veterinarians’ perception of the risk of contracting a disease from animals they treat, the protections taken and the factors that influence the adoption of such measures.
Workplace policies and culture substantially influenced the use of personal protective equipment, the researchers noted. Veterinarians were more likely to take precautions in nonprivate practice and when they believed the equipment use would lessen their legal liability.
On the other hand, veterinarians were less likely to use protective equipment in private practice, when they would "just hope for the best” and when they were not aware of industry guidelines.
"Given an estimated 80 percent of surveyed vets worked in private practice, their lack of awareness underlines the need to improve the quality of decision making … regarding the use of preventive measures,” Dhand said.
Of the 344 surveyed veterinarians, 64 percent were women, 63 percent worked in a small animal practice and 80 percent were in private practice.