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New Guide for Animal Visitations in Hospitals

  • Published: 2015-06-03 : Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (Tamara Moore - tmoore@gymr.com - 202-745-5114).
  • Synopsis: New guidance outlines policies regarding use of animals in healthcare facilities, including service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation.

Main Document

Quote: "While there may be benefits to patient care, the role of animals in the spread of bacteria is not well understood."

New expert guidance by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) outlines recommendations for developing policies regarding the use of animals in healthcare facilities, including animal-assisted activities, service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation in acute care hospitals. The guidance was published online in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of SHEA.

"Animals have had an increasing presence in healthcare facilities," said David Weber, MD, MPH, a lead author of the recommendations. "While there may be benefits to patient care, the role of animals in the spread of bacteria is not well understood. We have developed standard infection prevention and control guidance to help protect patients and healthcare providers via animal-to-human transmission in healthcare settings."

Since evidence on the role animals play in the transmission of pathogens in healthcare facilities is largely unknown, the SHEA Guidelines Committee comprised of experts in infection control and prevention developed the recommendations based on available evidence, practical considerations, a survey of SHEA members, writing group opinion and consideration of potential harm where applicable. The guidance was also endorsed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), a professional association of more than 15,000 infection preventionists.

Guidance is grouped by the role of animals - animal-assisted activities (i.e., pet therapy and volunteer programs), service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation.

Select recommendations are highlighted below.

Animal-Assisted Activities

Service Animals

Personal Pet Visitation

The authors note that as the role of animals in healthcare evolves, there is a need for stronger research to establish evidence-based guidelines to manage the risk to patients and healthcare providers.

This guidance on animals in healthcare facilities has been endorsed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the leading professional association for infection preventionists with more than 15,000 members.

Rekha Murthy, MD, Gonzalo Bearman, MD, MPH, Sherrill Brown, MD, Kristina Bryant, MD, Raymond Chinn, MD, Angela Hewlett, MD, MS, B. Glenn George, JD, Ellie J.C. Goldstein, MD, Galit Holzmann-Pazgal, MD, Mark E. Rupp, MD, Timothy Wiemken, PhD, J. Scott Weese, DVM, David J. Weber, MD, MPH. SHEA Expert Guidance Animals in Healthcare Facilities: Recommendations to Minimize Potential Risks. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. Web. (February 13, 2015).

Published through a partnership between the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and Cambridge University Press, Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology provides original, peer-reviewed scientific articles for anyone involved with an infection control or epidemiology program in a hospital or healthcare facility. ICHE is ranked 13 out of 158 journals in its discipline in the latest Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports from Thomson Reuters.

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