COVID-19 Veterinarian Biosecurity Plan & Appointments

I have frequently advised clients to be mindful of biosecurity on their farms and take measures to avoid spreading disease, especially to the most vulnerable animals. As a veterinarian facing COVID-19 I have given considerable thought into how to go about continuing to work on farms.

First, please ask yourself these questions within 24 hours of my arrival and cancel/reschedule your appointment if any of the following apply:

  • Have you visited a COVID-19 epicenter within the last 14 days (e.g. New York City, China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan)
  • Have you had contact with anyone with confirmed COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
  • Have you had any of these symptoms in the last 14 days?
    • Fever greater than 100 (oral temp)
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Cough
  • Are you currently experiencing fever over 100, difficulty breathing or cough?

I will ask myself and my assistant the same questions. And will cancel and reschedule accordingly.

Despite these screening precautions, as I circulate from one farm to another, I risk being an unwitting carrier of viral particles. I am minimizing my trips to public places (grocery store, etc) as much as possible, but I still need childcare. I have found in one household both childcare and an assistant. They are staying home, also with minimal contact with the public. My plan is to bring the assistant to all routine appointments for at least 2 weeks, potentially longer. He can restrain animals for me so that as a team, he and I can accomplish the work, while maintaining a 6-foot social distance from clients. Neither of us will work if either of us have a fever or other signs of COVID-19, and we will follow current guidelines for self-quarantine.

When emergencies arise, please make sure that whoever is helping me work with the animal is healthy according to the above screening questions for COVID-19. During the daytime, I will likely be able to bring along my assistant, but after hours his availability/willingness is uncertain.

I do not want to officially raise prices because I know this is a financially difficult time for all of us and I believe animal health is essential. But I am paying the assistant a modest hourly wage and I would greatly appreciate those of you who can afford it, to pay me an extra $20 (or more if you wish) for every hour we work on your property. Otherwise, for a short time, I am willing to absorb this cost to protect all of us.

Every health professional recommends staying home to stay safe and to avoid giving this virus transmission opportunities. I struggle with that policy in my work, knowing that even elective procedures are time sensitive.  Let’s take each case as it comes (as we always do) and decide whether doing the procedure now is the healthiest option for all (vet, patient, and client) or whether it can wait 2 weeks or longer. We do not need to rush into anything despite the psychological panic we sometimes feel when thinking about Coronavirus. Let’s continue to be methodical and careful as we take care of animals together.

I still think preventative health is critical, especially for horses at this time of year. It is time for their spring vaccines (EWT-WNV) and for many, it is also time for their rabies vaccine. For boarders, they need to stay up-to-date on flu/rhino vaccines. For many, they are due for Lyme vaccine as well. Let’s vaccinate these animals now to ward off summer illnesses. EEE, West Nile, and Rabies can all prove fatal and there is little to distinguish between them pre-mortem.  Keeping horses up-to-date on these vaccines allows us to lower these on the differential list when they present with neurologic symptoms. Tetanus is also usually fatal. Lyme disease can also cause a very sick horse that may need 3 daily visits by the veterinarian for IV antibiotics. Treatment is NOT cheap. Vaccines can be costly, but not as costly as a sick horse that needs IV antibiotics +/- fluids and other medications. Provided you have money saved ahead for these vaccines or are still employed, I strongly advocate taking these preventative measures now. Ticks are already out; mosquitoes will emerge soon.

 

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