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Don’t Bite the Hand that Cares

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)

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Animal bites are an important public health concern, and developing appropriate bite injury prevention and control measures in veterinary settings is necessary. A better understanding of the bite risks specific to veterinary technicians aids in this goal.

In this nested case-control study, questionnaires were sent to CVTs in Minnesota who had previously participated in a related study. There were responses for 176 cases of work-related animal bite injuries in the preceding 12 months and 313 controls (no bite injuries). Information gathered included personal demographics, employer practices, relevant coworker experience, and workload. Significant differences in bite risk were found based on age, experience, animal exposure, and support. Those <25 years of age or with <5 years of veterinary experience were significantly more likely to have been bitten. Risk was higher for those handling ≥5 species in a day and was lower for those handling <10 animals per day. CVTs working ≥8 hours/day showed no increased risk compared with those working <8 hours/day. While there may be inherent bias in a questionnaire-based study, these results should nonetheless provide a basis for development of prevention and intervention programs, and encourage future study.

Those <25 years of age or with <5 years of veterinary experience were significantly  more likely to have been  bitten in practice.

Commentary

This study supports the necessity for the development of practice protocols to avoid the potential for work-related bite injuries. It is not surprising that younger technicians and technicians with less veterinary experience were shown to be bitten more than their counterparts. The higher the number of species in addition to the higher number of restraints per day is indicative of fatigue. It is prudent to implement control measures which incorporate training on proper restraint and handling for the species examined at the hospital. The development of protocols for the number of restraints per day by one team member may help to reduce fatigue and work-related bites. Practice protocols developed and implemented based on these findings should help to decrease costs associated with medical visits, lost wages, and physical and emotional damage to the injured team member.—Kara Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition)

References

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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