Coughs and Sneezes

Clocks have gone back, nights are drawing in, and ‘flu season is approaching. There are all sorts of theories about why humans suffer from more respiratory infections in the winter, and there’s probably a grain of truth in most of them. One thing we do know, however, is that lots of hardworking veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses – to say nothing of their receptionists and practice managers – will be dragging themselves out of bed and into work, no matter how bad their coughs and colds might seem to lesser mortals.

All very admirable, and fewer sick days for some makes lighter work for everyone else in the team, but bringing your bugs to work can put everyone else at risk and may mean they take those bugs back home with them. Such hazards are known as occupationally-acquired infections, and it might just be that veterinary practices are going to be full of them this winter.

Then there’s that other hazard, the one that gets into the headlines far more often: the hospital-acquired infection. Considering that some of those encountered in veterinary practice are zoonotic, and that researchers have additionally theorised that infections such as MRSA are as likely to pass from humans to animals as the other way round, that’s a whole load more potential risks to try to minimise. We can reduce the risk of new ‘superbugs’ developing by not prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily – no matter how fiercely our clients demand them – and by making sure that our patients are given the correct dose and length of course (again, this is where we need to educate our clients).

But, overall, whether we’re talking about diseases affecting only our patients, diseases affecting only the practice team, or diseases that can pass from one group to the other and back again, prevention is always going to be better than cure (and I’m backed up on this by such heavyweights as the Department of Health and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs who recently published a joint strategy on antimicrobial resistance).

It’s not just bacteria we need to think about either. Viruses such as those causing colds and flu in humans, haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs, or the various respiratory infections in cats can all survive for hours to days on the surfaces around us; as can fungal spores such as those that cause ringworm. So what’s the answer? Good hygiene; meticulous hand washing; not to mention regular, thorough cleaning of all the surfaces that we touch or that come into contact with our patients – whether directly or indirectly.

All of those measures will reduce disease, provided everyone adheres to them, and provided we pick the optimum cleaning products and regimens for our practices. Then there’s one extra weapon in our armoury against disease transmission: the use of antimicrobial coatings on a range of surfaces that are prone to contamination, whether that’s hand-driers in public toilets, the special paints used on walls in some hospitals, laboratories and commercial kitchens, or the frames of Gratnells Veterinary trolleys and units. This is a rapidly developing field, and Gratnells are working hard to source the best coatings for their units (all based on ionic silver) and to find more ways in which this technology can be harnessed to protect the whole practice team, their patients and their clients.

Call round to the Gratnells Veterinary Stand (K32) at the London Vet Show and learn more about how Gratnells can help keep your practice as healthy as possible, even at the height of the winter ‘flu season or during a specific disease outbreak in your patient population.

How do you keep your storage areas clean and germ-free? What’s your best tip for keeping everything clean and tidy on even the busiest of working days? Send your stories to [email protected].

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