Infectious Agents

Infectious Agents

The overall goal of infection prevention practices is to eliminate the risk of the transmission of pathogens. The following recommendations should be implemented when cleaning and disinfecting.

Contamination on a person’s clothing or body (fomite transmission), particularly the hands, is one of the most important sources of infectious microorganisms. This means YOU!

This can be due to handling multiple cats in the course of your work day. Other potential sources may include:

  • Food and water
  • Inanimate objects
  • Medical equipment, supplies and drugs
  • Animal bedding
  • Environmental surfaces that have been contaminated

Sources of infectious microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) may be:

  • Carrier cats (the microorganisms reside in or on the body, but is not associated with any clinical disease or host response)
  • Cats in the incubation phase of disease
  • Cats with acute disease
  • Cats with chronic disease caused by persistent infection
  • Cats that are recovering from clinical disease but are still shedding the infectious agent (shedders)
  • People can be an important source of zoonotic pathogens, and like cats they may be colonized or infected
  • In some cases, vectors such as lice, mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas, rodents and other vermin can transmit certain pathogens

Infectious agents are spread in various ways.

Microorganisms are transmitted in animal health care settings by four main routes: contact, droplet, air-borne and vector-borne transmission. The same microorganism may be transmitted by more than one route.

1. CONTACT TRANSMISSION

This is the most important and frequent mode of transmission of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs). It can be divided into direct and indirect contact transmission.

Direct contact transmission involves direct body surface-to-body surface contact resulting in physical transfer of microorganisms from an infected or colonized cat. For example:

  • Two cats that come into direct contact when they sniff each other may transmit pathogens present in their noses or perineal areas.
  • Staff member’s hands that touch a wound on a cat may result in transmission of opportunistic pathogens from the normal microorganisms of the person’s hands.
  • Infectious organisms present in the cat’s wound can be transmitted to staff.

Indirect contact transmission (fomite transmission) results from physical transfer of micro-organisms from the original cat (or human) source to a new host, without direct contact between the two. This typically involves contact with:

  • An inanimate object
  • Environmental surface
  • Skin/coat of another cat or person that has been contaminated by the original source

For example, handling one cat and then petting another cat without washing one’s hands results in indirect contact between the two cats.

  • Indirect Contact through environmental surfaces and contents, fomites such as hands, or another cat.

2. DROPLET TRANSMISSION

For example, a cat with an upper respiratory tract infection can transmit viruses or bacteria to another cat by sneezing directly on it. Droplets can also contaminate the surrounding environment and lead to indirect contact transmission.

3. AIRBORNE TRANSMISSION

This transmission occurs by spread of droplets or dust particles containing the infectious agent. Microorganisms carried in this manner remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and can be dispersed widely by air currents. They may be inhaled by another host anywhere within the facility.

4. VECTOR-BORNE TRANSMISSION

This transmission occurs when vectors such as mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas, rats, and other vermin transmit microorganisms. Some act as simple mechanical vectors, whereas others spread microorganisms by biting. In Catteries, it is important to have control measures in place to reduce or eliminate the presence of such vectors.

Examples of Feline Infectious diseases:

  • Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) need direct contact between cats, which should be impossible in the boarding situation.
  • Cat flu viruses such as feline herpesvirus [FHV], feline calicivirus [FCV], and other respiratory pathogens such as Bordetella bronchiseptica, are spread in sneeze droplets, on hands, clothes, shoes, equipment and environment.
  • Feline parvovirus (aka feline infectious enteritis (FIE)) is spread mainly through fomite transmission of bodily secretions, such as vomit and faeces can be spread on hands, clothing and shoes, litter trays and environment. These viruses are very environmentally hardy and can be difficult to eradicate from the Cattery environment if proper sanitation procedures are not in place.

Several other agents that are also spread via contact with other cats’ faeces/litter trays include Coronavirus, Salmonella and Campylobacter etc.

Ringworm spores can remain infectious in the environment for prolonged periods of time

5. LIMITING TRANSMISSION OF DISEASE

Cats coming to the Cattery will all have been vaccinated and therefore regularly checked by a vet. However, the stress of entering a Cattery, the Cattery environment itself, and several other factors may contribute to an increased risk for developing illness.

NOTE: Vaccines are not a guarantee against infection!

For these reasons, please wash your hands (use hand sanitizer) between handling each cat. Sanitizer bottles are located throughout the Cattery area. You do not have to sanitize your hands between cats sharing a pen, but you must do so before you interact with another cat.

WE ARE THE GREATEST SOURCE OF FOMITES IN THE CAT’S ENVIRONMENT!

When cats arrive at the Cattery, they are evaluated carefully and the owners asked about the cat’s health, any past illnesses and any medications the cat may be on. Vaccination cards are checked and notes are made of flea and worming treatment used and when last applied.

If a cat looks unwell then it will not be accepted into the cattery. It is not acceptable to put the other boarders at risk.

The owners will be encouraged to take the cat to the vets and if need be the cat can remain at the vets whilst the owners are away.

If the cat is given the all clear and the vet says there is no risk to the other cats in the cattery then it may be accepted.

6. INFECTION CONTROL PROCEDURE IN THE CATTERY

Staff or volunteers who observe cats exhibiting any signs of illness (such as diarrhoea, vomiting, sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge etc.) should immediately notify the Cattery supervisor.

The overall goal of infection prevention practices is to eliminate the risk of the transmission of pathogens.

We must work diligently to prevent transmission as much as possible.

Any cat suspected of having an infectious disease will be removed from the Cattery and placed in the Isolation Unit and full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn. Refer to the PPE section.

The cat’s vet will be contacted and the cat will be examined by the vet. If necessary, the cat will stay at the vets for monitoring and treatment.

If the vet feels that the cat can be adequately monitored at the Cattery and poses little risk then the cat must remain in the Isolation Unit and stringent Infection Control Procedures must be implemented.

The ideal situation would be for the cat to remain at the vets but this may not always be possible.

In the main Cattery, as a precaution, shoe covers will be provided for each pen, gloves will be worn and strict monitoring of all cats will take place. The vet will have given advice on what symptoms to look out for and a possible time frame of when these symptoms may occur depending on the suspected disease.

These precautions will remain in place for as long as necessary.

Only staff will be allowed in the cattery until further notice.

If there is a risk of infection spreading throughout the cattery then it may need to be closed to new cats coming in. This will be discussed with the vet and if necessary, cat owners can be contacted so they can make new arrangements.

If any cats are due to go home then the owners will be made aware of the situation and given a checklist of symptoms to look out for. They will be advised to keep their cat indoors until given the all clear. They will also be advised to contact their vet if they have any concerns.

The cattery pen vacated by the potentially infectious cat will be thoroughly cleaned by staff wearing the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment and following Infection Control Procedure. The pen will be cleaned twice then left empty for a period of time.

7. INFECTION CONTROL PROCEDURE IN THE ISOLATION UNIT

The overall goal of infection prevention practices is to eliminate the risk of the transmission of pathogens.

If at any time, an employee suspects that an animal is carrying a disease, they must follow the procedures as outlined:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn by all staff entering an Isolation Pen that is housing a potentially infectious cat. At a minimum, this consists of gloves, disposable suits and impermeable shoe covers that are only worn in the isolation area.

  • Depending on the diagnosis and the mode of transmission of the disease, masks and eye protection may also be required.
  • Gloves must be discarded after a single use.
  • Masks must only be reused by the same person. If the eyewear or mask becomes contaminated with body fluids such as urine or faeces, it must be replaced with a clean article.
  • Designated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be removed before leaving the isolation unit.
  • Contaminated items (e.g. dishes, litter trays, toys and laundry) must be bagged prior to being removed from the isolation area, to be cleaned and disinfected, or disposed of.
  • Waste must also be bagged prior to being removed from the isolation area. Bags should then immediately be discarded in the dumpster.
  • Waste from an isolation room must be treated as potentially infectious and be disposed of properly.
  • Hands must be washed immediately after leaving isolation.

THERE ARE 2 PENS IN THE ISOLATION UNIT, EACH PEN MUST HAVE ITS OWN SET OF PPE (GLOVES, SUIT AND SHOE COVERS). THEY MUST NOT COME INTO CONTACT WITH EACH OTHER.

8. CLEANING PROTOCOL

CLEANING CAN BE VERY STRESSFUL FOR CATS. TO MINIMIZE STRESS TO THE CATS, SPOT CLEANING WILL BE USED WHENEVER THE CAGE IS NOT HEAVILY SOILED (E.G. SPILLED LITTER, FAECES OR URINE OUTSIDE OF LITTER TRAY, SPILLED WATER OR VOMIT).

To reduce stress during spot cleaning:

Open and close pen door quietly!

Clean gently around the cat.

Do not spray disinfectant around the cat – spray it onto a cloth or paper towel first, away from the cat’s face, then use this to wipe down the pen.

Wipe the walls (important to remove any nasal discharge from day to day to permit monitoring).

Disinfect using a germicidal product effective against whatever harmful agents are likely to be present. The vet will recommend the best product to use.

There is no need to rinse if the disinfectant is used at the correct dilution.

Have a carrier available in case a cat needs to be removed to clean a heavily soiled pen (clean and disinfect carrier between uses).

Have everything needed to clean the pen available so you don’t have to keep on leaving the pen.

Make detailed notes about the cat – urine, faeces, demeanour, eating, symptoms etc

Each pen has its own dust pan and brush and scoop.

9. PROCEDURE

Mechanically remove gross organic matter by scooping faeces, dumping litter and food.

Remember that if you spray faeces with disinfectant you DO NOT have disinfected faeces… you just have a pile of wet faeces!

The bedding and toys may be shaken to remove any dust or litter – (the “fluff and fold” approach). The bedding is only replaced if it is soiled and unhygienic.

The inside of the pen is wiped down of any evident organic matter or stains.

The floor is cleaned.

The litter tray is removed and replaced with a fresh one.

Food and water bowls are replaced. Medication can be given if required (and if needed eyes and nose wiped, wounds bathed etc.).

It is imperative to maintain as much of the cat’s “presence” (such as their scent) as possible and not overwhelm them with disinfection smells.

Thoroughly wash and disinfect all items removed from the pen – unless they are disposable.

Observe proper waste management (see below)

Follow the correct PPE protocol (as outlined in the manual).

Hands must be washed immediately after leaving Isolation.

10. WHEN TO DISCARD RATHER THAN LAUNDER

The following germs are very easily spread and a good laundry protocol will not kill all of them; but more importantly the transport and handling of this dirty laundry may easily result in contamination of other areas and further spread of the disease.

Discard when the following are suspected or confirmed:

  • Feline Panleukopenia
  • Ringworm (Dermatophytosis)
  • Coccidia

11. WASTE MANAGEMENT

Proper waste management and disposal plays a crucial role in preventing the spread of disease and illness within an environment.

There should be a designated garbage receptacle for Isolation to prevent cross contamination of any potential illness.

The garbage bag should always be sealed before leaving the room. This will ensure the contents are contained and prevent any potential infectious exposure during transport to the dumpster.

The garbage bag should be changed and replaced when it is full, the contents have an odour (i.e. urine, faeces, vomit), and / or at the end of a full cleaning of the pen.

This will allow for proper disposal of any PPE and eliminate travel through a “dirty” room to dispose of an item.

Sealed garbage bags must be taken straight to the dumpster once they have been removed from the unit.

Spray the inside of the garbage receptacle with disinfectant.

Gloves, suits and shoe covers can be disposed of in the garbage.

12. CLEANING PROCEDURE FOR A VACATED PEN

  • Mechanically remove all gross organic matter by scooping faeces, dumping litter and food.
  • Remove the litter tray, scoop, feeding bowls, water bowls, toys and grooming equipment. They will either be thoroughly disinfected or disposed of.
  • Brush up any dust, litter, hair etc. Put the dust pan and brush to be disinfected.
  • Scrub every surface!

PAY CAREFULL ATTENTION TO SCRUBBING CRACKS AROUND DOORS, SHELVES, WINDOWS AND WHERE WALL MEETS FLOOR.

DOORS, AREAS AROUND LIGHT SWITCHES, HANDLES AND ANY OTHER FREQUENTLY HANDLED AREAS SHOULD ALSO BE CLEANED.

LEAVE THE DISINFECTANT TO DRY.

SCRUB THE PEN AGAIN THE NEXT DAY.

IF POSSIBLE, LEAVE THE PEN EMPTY FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.

Contaminated items (e.g. dishes, litter trays, toys and laundry) must be bagged prior to being removed from the isolation area, to be cleaned and disinfected, or disposed of.

Waste must also be bagged prior to being removed from the isolation area. Bags should then immediately be discarded in the dumpster.

Follow the correct PPE protocol (as outlined in the manual).

Hands must be washed immediately after leaving Isolation.