SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, is believed to spread primarily through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. Airborne transmission over long distances is unlikely. The virus has been shown to survive in aerosols for a few hours, and can survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to three days.
One of the most important ways of minimizing the spread of Covid-19 in a hospital is to maintain a clean environment (and clean hands). All areas of the hospital and the equipment should be regularly cleaned. Most standard veterinary surface disinfectants will kill corona viruses. See the Covid-19 resources on the RCVS Knowledge website for further information.
You can reduce risk, although not eliminate it, by splitting your hospital staff into two or more small teams with minimal contact between them. Social / physical distancing within the teams should still be practised. This does depend on the numbers of staff you have to start with, and equally the division of skills. Each small team becomes a discrete epidemiological unit, so if Covid-19 symptoms develop in one of the team members, the risk of spreading the virus is limited to that individual team rather than the entire hospital.
Where deemed appropriate to reduce health and safety risks, administration of sedatives to hospital cases should be undertaken.
In situations where physical distancing between team members cannot be maintained (such as dealing with some emergency cases or some non-urgent but time sensitive cases), then consideration should be given to everyone in the team wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks, gloves and aprons, and hand washing before and after performing the procedure. A face mask may reduce the risk of a team member who is (unknown to themselves) an asymptomatic/presymptomatic shedder infecting a colleague, however it does not protect the wearer. An important concern is the potential shortage of medical grade face masks for frontline healthcare workers - makeshift or cloth masks can be considered as an alternative as data suggest that cloth masks may be only marginally (15%) less effective than surgical masks in blocking emission of particles, and fivefold more effective than not wearing masks. Masks should be changed if they become damp and should be disposed of carefully. Disposable face masks should not be re-used; cloth masks should be washed (60o wash) daily. Veterinary hospitals are encouraged to develop their own guidelines and protocols on the use of PPE in different situations. Wherever possible, team members working closer than 2 metres apart from each other should try to stand side by side rather than facing each other.
Click here for guidance on the use of face masks.