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      Zoonotic disease risk perceptions and infection control practices of Australian veterinarians: Call for change in work culture


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          This study was conducted to determine the perceptions of zoonotic disease risk among Australian veterinarians, the infection control practices they use to protect themselves from zoonotic diseases, and the factors influencing their use of these protective practices. A questionnaire was designed and piloted prior to its administration to veterinarians at the annual Australian Veterinary Association Conference in May 2011. The questionnaire comprised 21 closed, semi-closed and open questions. Data from the questionnaire were analyzed using ordinal logistic regression analyses to determine significant factors for veterinarians’ use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

          A total of 344 veterinarians completed the questionnaire of which 63.7% were women, 63.2% worked in small/companion animal practice, and 79.9% worked in private veterinary practice. Of the respondents, 44.9% reported contracting a zoonosis during their careers with 19.7% reporting a suspected case and 25.2% reporting a confirmed incidence. Around 40–60% of veterinarians perceived exposure to zoonosis likely or very likely in a variety of situations. With reference to current national industry guidelines, the reported use of PPE was less than “adequate” for most scenarios except for performing postmortems, surgery or dental procedures. No PPE was used by 60–70% of veterinarians for treating respiratory and neurological cases and by 40–50% when treating gastrointestinal and dermatological cases. Workplace conditions need improvement as 34.8% of workplaces did not have isolation units for infected animals, 21.1% did not have separate eating areas for staff, and 57.1% did not have complete PPE kits for use. Veterinarians were more likely to use PPE if they had undertaken postgraduate education, perceived that zoonosis exposure from animals and procedures was likely, consciously considered PPE use for every case they dealt with and believed that liability issues and risks encouraged use of PPE. In contrast, those working in private practices, those who tended to ‘just hope for the best’ when trying to avoid zoonotic diseases, and those who were not aware of industry guidelines were less likely to use PPE.

          The results suggest that veterinarians’ perceptions and workplace policies and culture substantially influence their use of PPE. Efforts should be made to encourage veterinarians and their workplaces to use infection control practices to protect themselves and their staff from zoonotic diseases.

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          Many infectious agents, especially those that cause emerging diseases, infect more than one host species. Managing reservoirs of multihost pathogens often plays a crucial role in effective disease control. However, reservoirs remain variously and loosely defined. We propose that reservoirs can only be understood with reference to defined target populations. Therefore, we define a reservoir as one or more epidemiologically connected populations or environments in which the pathogen can be permanently maintained and from which infection is transmitted to the defined target population. Existence of a reservoir is confirmed when infection within the target population cannot be sustained after all transmission between target and nontarget populations has been eliminated. When disease can be controlled solely by interventions within target populations, little knowledge of potentially complex reservoir infection dynamics is necessary for effective control. We discuss the practical value of different approaches that may be used to identify reservoirs in the field.
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            An outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus subtype H7N7 started at the end of February, 2003, in commercial poultry farms in the Netherlands. Although the risk of transmission of these viruses to humans was initially thought to be low, an outbreak investigation was launched to assess the extent of transmission of influenza A virus subtype H7N7 from chickens to humans. All workers in poultry farms, poultry farmers, and their families were asked to report signs of conjunctivitis or influenza-like illness. People with complaints were tested for influenza virus type A subtype H7 (A/H7) infection and completed a health questionnaire about type of symptoms, duration of illness, and possible exposures to infected poultry. 453 people had health complaints--349 reported conjunctivitis, 90 had influenza-like illness, and 67 had other complaints. We detected A/H7 in conjunctival samples from 78 (26.4%) people with conjunctivitis only, in five (9.4%) with influenza-like illness and conjunctivitis, in two (5.4%) with influenza-like illness only, and in four (6%) who reported other symptoms. Most positive samples had been collected within 5 days of symptom onset. A/H7 infection was confirmed in three contacts (of 83 tested), one of whom developed influenza-like illness. Six people had influenza A/H3N2 infection. After 19 people had been diagnosed with the infection, all workers received mandatory influenza virus vaccination and prophylactic treatment with oseltamivir. More than half (56%) of A/H7 infections reported here arose before the vaccination and treatment programme. We noted an unexpectedly high number of transmissions of avian influenza A virus subtype H7N7 to people directly involved in handling infected poultry, and we noted evidence for person-to-person transmission. Our data emphasise the importance of adequate surveillance, outbreak preparedness, and pandemic planning.
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                Author and article information

                Prev Vet Med
                Prev. Vet. Med
                Preventive Veterinary Medicine
                Elsevier B.V.
                8 May 2013
                1 August 2013
                8 May 2013
                : 111
                : 1
                : 17-24
                [a ]Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, 425 Werombi Road, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia
                [b ]School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
                [c ]Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Sydney, Medical Foundation Building K25, NSW 2006, Australia
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. Tel.: +61 2 93511669; fax: +61 2 9351 1693. navneet.dhand@ 123456sydney.edu.au
                Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

                Since January 2020 Elsevier has created a COVID-19 resource centre with free information in English and Mandarin on the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The COVID-19 resource centre is hosted on Elsevier Connect, the company's public news and information website. Elsevier hereby grants permission to make all its COVID-19-related research that is available on the COVID-19 resource centre - including this research content - immediately available in PubMed Central and other publicly funded repositories, such as the WHO COVID database with rights for unrestricted research re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for free by Elsevier for as long as the COVID-19 resource centre remains active.

                : 10 January 2013
                : 3 April 2013
                : 5 April 2013

                Veterinary medicine
                zoonoses,infection control practices,personal protective equipment,occupational health and safety,risk perception,public health


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