Coughing, sniffling and sneezing just might earn you a few dirty looks from coworkers who want to avoid falling ill with the
creeping crud every time it sneaks into your office. And it's true that during cold and flu season, viruses and bacteria spread
via indirect and direct contact and aerosol exposure such as sneezing. But in veterinary hospitals, we deal with another culprit
that may occur year-round: the pathogens that can spread from our patients to us.
What's more concerning is that we're often way more lax than human hospitals when it comes to protecting ourselves from the
spread of these diseases from our patients. We don't wear gloves as frequently as we should, and we've likely all witnessed
a dental prophylaxis being performed with a face mask and gloves but no protective eye wear—and maybe even without the mask
and gloves. Controlling zoonotic exposure in veterinary practices depends on an understanding of routes of transmission, personal
protective equipment available and common zoonoses seen in the hospital. It also depends on conscientious employees with a
goal of protecting themselves and others from unnecessary exposure to pathogens.
Understand routes of transmission
The first step in protecting yourself from zoonotic disease is to be aware of the three main means of transmission for various
hosts: aerosol, vector-borne and contact. Aerosol transmission usually occurs through coughing and sneezing and can be generated
via procedures such as suction or bronchoscopy. Vector-borne transmission can occur via vectors such as mosquitoes, fleas
and ticks. Within the hospital, it's more common that we come into contact with fleas or ticks on animals that are infested.
Contact may occur directly through examining, bathing or handling animals, or indirectly through contaminated items such as
cages, soiled laundry or equipment.1