Dogs rule, and other infection control guidance for animal visits to hospitals

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The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America has released new expert guidance on developing policies for animal visits to healthcare facilities, including service animals, pet therapy or personal pet visits. One common thread: only dogs (and miniature horses) to visit patients.

While animals have become more present in hospitals in recent years, their role in disease transmission in hospitals is largely unknown, according to SHEA experts.

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

The experts developed recommendations based on available evidence, practical considerations and from a survey of SHEA members. They broke down the recommendations into groups by role of the animal, like pet therapy, service animals and personal pet visitation.

Some highlights of the recommendations are listed below by group.

Pet therapy and volunteer program guidance

Service animals

Personal pet visitation

The guidance from SHEA was also endorsed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. See the full guidance here.

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