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Infectious Diseases are Scary, Disinfection Doesn’t Have to Be

In the world of animal care, there is nothing new about the concept of cleaning and disinfection; it’s just a fact of life when it comes to preventing the spread of infection throughout your facility. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now seeing disinfectants being more widely used in the world around us, from grocery stores to salons and everywhere in between. With the fear and anxiety surrounding this crisis, it’s important to keep in mind that the rules of cleaning and disinfection haven’t changed. The same factors that will help you choose a disinfectant in normal times are just as relevant, if not more, during a pandemic. Here are some quick tips for selecting the right disinfectant for your facility, both during a pandemic and in better times ahead.

Find a Balance Between Efficacy and Safety

It can be tempting to think that whenever a new pathogen emerges, like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a more toxic disinfectant is needed to make sure we’re protected. This isn’t true: Many existing disinfectants are formulated to be highly effective against a broad spectrum of pathogens, which will give you comfort that your facility is protected even in the event of a pandemic. Look for a disinfectant with efficacy claims on its label against a wide range of organisms relevant to your facility, including those that are harder to kill, such as non-enveloped viruses.

However, protection against infection should never come at the expense of safety. It’s equally as important for your disinfectant to be non-toxic and non-irritating when used as directed. Creating a Fear Free experience means making sure the products you choose protect every animal in your care, as well as your team. Avoiding harsh disinfectant chemicals is an important step to make this happen.

Embrace the “Smell” of Clean

Although disinfection may get all the attention when it comes to preventing the spread of infection, cleaning is just as important. Disinfection, the process of killing infectious pathogens, can’t take place without cleaning–the process of removing dirt and debris from the surface, allowing the disinfectant to work properly. Look for a disinfectant with detergency properties that is labeled as a one-step cleaner-disinfectant. This will allow you to clean and disinfect your facility with just one product in a single step. If using a disinfectant without detergency properties, you may need to pre-clean surfaces with a separate detergent product to make sure your disinfectant can do its job.

You may notice that when you go to the hospital there is no lemony fresh scent. That’s because no scent means clean. Lots of disinfectants add strong scents to mask the smell of everything left behind on a surface, since dirt and germs are not being properly eliminated. Remember that your patients have a much stronger sense of smell than you do, and they don’t want to be hit in the face with a lemony fresh scent when they enter a room.

Also, pets might be a bit scared when initially walking into an exam room, causing them to emit fear pheromones. Any pet walking into the exam room afterward will immediately detect those pheromones and know something scary happened there, which will be cause for alarm. Choosing a disinfectant with strong cleaning capabilities can help remove these leftover pheromones, reducing fear, stress, and anxiety for the next patient who walks in.

Importance of Contact Time

It would be convenient if disinfectants could kill all pathogens instantly, but the reality is that all disinfectants have a contact time, which can be found on the product label. This is the length of time a disinfectant must stay wet on the surface to be fully effective. If the product evaporates or is wiped dry before this contact time is reached, disinfection may not be taking place. The best way to avoid this is to choose a disinfectant with a rapid contact time. Although 10 minutes is common, some products have contact times as low as one minute, which is much easier to achieve in the real world. In addition to speeding up your process, this also helps to ensure that the disinfectant will not evaporate before the contact time has been met.

Protect the Planet

More than ever before, we’re starting to think about how the products we use leave a footprint on the planet, and the same goes for the chemicals we use for cleaning and disinfection. Look for a disinfectant that is readily biodegradable, one that does not leave harmful residue behind in the environment. This will also help combat the ever-growing issue of antimicrobial resistance by preventing buildup of low levels of disinfectants in the environment.

Although COVID-19 has changed the way the world thinks about infection prevention, the same strategies that keep your animals and team healthy are just as important as ever. Selecting the right disinfectant is an important step in protecting your facility against the threat of infection, both in a pandemic and beyond.

Brought to you by Virox Animal Health.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

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