Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a serious problem in the U.S. It is estimated that there are about 2 million HAIs in this country every year with about 100,000 people dying of these diseases. However, “human” patients are not the only victims of HAI. Cats and dogs and other household pets, get them too, but in this case, they acquire them in veterinary hospitals.
We do not know exactly how many pets contract HAIs or die from the disease each year. No studies are taken, and it can be tough to gather this data.
But the problem exists and has been well-documented in various veterinary publications. According to a leading organization that provides continuing education programs for veterinarians, “noncritical surfaces such as floors, walls, and countertops in veterinary facilities are more likely to be contaminated by pathogens than those in human facilities.”
Mainly this is because the high degree of infection control protocols followed in human hospitals are not necessarily followed in veterinary hospitals. Sometimes exam tables are not properly cleaned and disinfected after each use or not cleaned at all. Further, a pet may have an “accident” on an exam table, wall, or floor that is not properly cleaned up.
But it appears that floors tend to be the biggest culprit. The pet walks on a contaminated floor and may come in contact with pathogens directly by doing so. Veterinarians and staff pick up the animal and in the process may enter into contact with germs and bacteria that the pet has gathered from the floor.
To help prevent the spread of pathogens from the floor, the continuing education organization suggests the following:
• Mop heads and cleaning solution be changed at least twice per day
• Mop heads and cleaning solution be changed whenever visibly soiled
• In 24-hour facilities, the mop head and solution should be changed after each shift (about three times per day)
• At least once per day, the mop bucket should be emptied, cleaned, disinfected, and allowed to air dry
• The cleaning solution should contain an appropriate disinfectant “as simple detergents are frequently contaminated with pathogens that are then spread throughout the hospital.”
While this advice is fairly good, it probably is not enough to stop the spread of HAIs in veterinary hospitals. For instance, in a human hospital, it is recommended that mop heads and cleaning solution be changed after every room is cleaned, not twice per day and certainly not once they are “visibly soiled.”
If the mop head or cleaning solution is visibly soiled, that’s too late. This means soils and pathogens have had ample time to build up on the mop head and in the cleaning solution allowing them to be spread on the floor as it is mopped.
As far as recommending that the cleaning solution contains a disinfectant to help stop the spread of pathogens in the mopping process, what was not mentioned is that as the cleaning solution becomes soiled, the efficacy of the disinfectant is weakened. The disinfectant is strongest when fresh and appropriately diluted. But with each use, it becomes weaker, and its ability to kill germs and bacteria begins to falter.
The answer to this problem is to find ways to avoid mops entirely. Instead, let’s consider doing the following:
• Use a trolley bucket that dispenses fresh cleaning solution and a disinfectant directly to the floor as it is rolled over the floor.
• Now, use a deck brush to spread the solution over the floor. This provides the necessary agitation to loosen soils and pathogens.
• Finally, use a wet/vac vacuuming system to vacuum up the moisture, cleaning solution, and pathogens.
This is essentially how Kaivac’s Dispense-and-Vac cleaning system works. With it, we don’t have to be concerned about changing mop heads and cleaning solution once per day, twice per day, or at all. Mops are out of the picture entirely, helping us take a big step in preventing HAIs in veterinary hospitals.
Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor, having owned, operated, and then sold three contract cleaning companies in Northern California.
He is the author of two books about the industry and continues to be a frequent writer for the industry.
Robert is now president of AlturaSolutions Communications, which provides communications and marketing services for organizations in the professional cleaning and building industries.