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Infection control practices and zoonotic disease risks among veterinarians in the United States

Jennifer G. WrightCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases, 1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333.
US Public Health Service, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.

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Sherry JungEpidemiology Department, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.

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Robert C. HolmanCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases, 1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333.

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Nina N. MaranoCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases, 1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333.

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Jennifer H. McQuistonCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases, 1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333.
US Public Health Service, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.

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Abstract

Objective—To assess the knowledge and use of infection control practices (ICPs) among US veterinarians.

Design—Anonymous mail-out population survey.

Procedures—In 2005 a questionnaire was mailed to US small animal, large animal, and equine veterinarians who were randomly selected from the AVMA membership to assess precaution awareness (PA) and veterinarians' perceptions of zoonotic disease risks. Respondents were assigned a PA score (0 to 4) on the basis of their responses (higher scores representing higher stringency of ICPs); within a practice type, respondents' scores were categorized as being within the upper 25% or lower 75% of scores (high and low PA ranking, respectively). Characteristics associated with low PA rankings were assessed.

Results—Generally, respondents did not engage in protective behaviors or use personal protective equipment considered appropriate to protect against zoonotic disease transmission. Small animal and equine veterinarians employed in practices that had no written infection control policy were significantly more likely to have low PA ranking. Male gender was associated with low PA ranking among small animal and large animal veterinarians; equine practitioners not working in a teaching or referral hospital were more likely to have low PA ranking than equine practitioners working in such institutions.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that most US veterinarians are not aware of appropriate personal protective equipment use and do not engage in practices that may help reduce zoonotic disease transmission. Gender differences may influence personal choices for ICPs. Provision of information and training on ICPs and establishment of written infection control policies could be effective means of improving ICPs in veterinary practices.

Abstract

Objective—To assess the knowledge and use of infection control practices (ICPs) among US veterinarians.

Design—Anonymous mail-out population survey.

Procedures—In 2005 a questionnaire was mailed to US small animal, large animal, and equine veterinarians who were randomly selected from the AVMA membership to assess precaution awareness (PA) and veterinarians' perceptions of zoonotic disease risks. Respondents were assigned a PA score (0 to 4) on the basis of their responses (higher scores representing higher stringency of ICPs); within a practice type, respondents' scores were categorized as being within the upper 25% or lower 75% of scores (high and low PA ranking, respectively). Characteristics associated with low PA rankings were assessed.

Results—Generally, respondents did not engage in protective behaviors or use personal protective equipment considered appropriate to protect against zoonotic disease transmission. Small animal and equine veterinarians employed in practices that had no written infection control policy were significantly more likely to have low PA ranking. Male gender was associated with low PA ranking among small animal and large animal veterinarians; equine practitioners not working in a teaching or referral hospital were more likely to have low PA ranking than equine practitioners working in such institutions.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that most US veterinarians are not aware of appropriate personal protective equipment use and do not engage in practices that may help reduce zoonotic disease transmission. Gender differences may influence personal choices for ICPs. Provision of information and training on ICPs and establishment of written infection control policies could be effective means of improving ICPs in veterinary practices.

Contributor Notes

Ms. Jung's present address is the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

Presented in part at the 143rd AVMA Annual Convention, Honolulu, July 2006; the 144th AVMA Annual Convention, Washington, DC, July 2007; US Public Health Service Professional Conference, Denver, Colo, May, 2006; the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges/Association of Schools of Public Health Joint Symposium, Atlanta, April 2007; the 110th Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, February 2007; and the Midwest Veterinary Conference, Columbus, OH, February 2007.

The findings and conclusions in the manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors thank Drs. Ruth Berkelman, Mary Chamberland, David Ashford, Sarah Babcock, Brad Fields, Rosemary LoGiudice, Shanna Siegal, and Tom Taylor for technical assistance.

The authors thank the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service, the AVMA Executive Board, and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians for their support and collaboration.

Address correspondence to Dr. Wright.