Effective Biosecurity Requires a Layered Approach
Biosecurity encompasses everything that is done to mitigate pathogens and protect against the spread of infectious diseases. Cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting and sterilization each play a vital role in the overall protection of animal, human and environmental health. To address the unique needs in veterinary practices multiple strategies and processes are required to be effective but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Approach each cleaning process in the same manner. The number and type of layers is determined by the desired outcome.
Always start with Macro Cleaning any surface by manually removing potential fomites and/or organic material such as feces, urine, gross debris, bedding, gauze pads, surgical instruments, drapes or other items that have the potential to spread germs. Make sure all items are placed in designated receptacles with covers where appropriate.
Thorough cleaning is required prior to disinfection and sterilization to remove visible foreign matter from objects and surfaces. Inorganic and organic materials that remain on the surface interfere with the effectiveness of these processes.
Choose a cleaner with surfactants (soap or detergents) that has good cleansing properties when in dilute solutions to remove dirt, dust, stains, soils and associated odors from surfaces. Don’t overlook that water is considered the universal solvent and is essential to most cleaning processes. Presoaking instruments, laundry, or surfaces with dried fecal material or blood dramatically improves results.
Friction is also extremely important. Scrubbing helps break down grime and assists with the removal of debris, allowing it to be more readily removed by ultrasonic cleaning, rinsing &/or wiping and better prepares the object for sanitizing, disinfection or sterilization. For instruments with channels too small for the bristles to reach pressurized fluids are used to dislodge soil and debris.
Sanitizing reduces or eliminates the number of pathogenic agents (such as bacteria) on surfaces to a safe level. This is often preferred for low-risk areas such as daily routine cleaning of a pet boarding kennel where the same occupant resides during its stay. This lessens the potential exposure to strong chemical agents, fumes and residues.
Disinfection eliminates harmful viruses and bacteria, except for bacterial spores, that remain on surfaces after cleaning. This should be used in all circumstances that are considered high or unknown risks and for deep cleaning of low-risk areas such as preparation for a new patient or high contact surfaces.
Sterilization kills all microorganisms from surfaces. Physical or chemicals methods such as pressurized steam, dry heat, ETO gas or liquid chemicals are used for surgical applications such as instruments, equipment and surgical packs.
Unfortunately, as soon as the disinfection process is complete any exposed surfaces are immediately at risk for recontamination from potential pathogens in the air. Air Purification provides protection against airborne pathogens, however, not all air purifiers are the same. When choosing an air purifier look for an active system such as Photocatalytic Oxidation technology that releases ions into the environment to inactivate pathogens midair and on exposed surfaces. This will augment your sanitizing and disinfecting processes.
Always check the Safety Data Sheet for every chemical to ensure it is safe and what, if any, hazards are associated with potential exposure or chemical interactions. To minimize risks, use complimentary chemistry’s, always use per label directions and wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as needed.
Prioritize frequent cleaning, disinfection and protection of rooms, high contact surfaces and frequently used equipment. Limit exposure by using disposable patient care equipment and supplies when possible.
Encourage frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizers and changing of gloves.
Take advantage of resources provided by biosecurity experts in animal health.
Finally Set Expectations
Emphasizing the importance of good biosecurity practices is imperative to a successful business, especially those in the medical field. Collaborate with staff members to optimize current protocols and processes and help them become vested in their successful execution.
Not only will this lessen the potential of disease transmission but will improve employee morale, decrease costs associated with outbreaks, elevate standing in the community and optimize patient care.