Mask wearing in the veterinary practice
The clinical environment of a veterinary practice relies on personal protective equipment (PPE) for infection and biosecurity control, especially in areas such as the operating theatre room, dental suites and isolation wards. PPE places a barrier between staff and exposure risk and helps prevent the spread of pathogens between animals and staff. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks were mainly required in clinical areas that posed the highest risk. However, as a result of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, being spread by airborne transmission, face masks have been worn throughout all areas of practice, reducing the emission of the virus carrying particles when worn by an infected person. This article discusses the evidence-based research for the effectiveness of face coverings in the control of the spread of COVID-19. It also considers the social and psychological impacts to veterinary staff, clients and patients with doing so. Information on COVID-19 was gathered from government and scientific studies and research conducted by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and Dogs Trust relating to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on animals and veterinary nurses.
Lockdowns, hand washing, social distancing and face masks were some of the restrictions imposed from spring of 2020 to help reduce the spread of a newly emerged virus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. The global pandemic of COVID-19 brought huge strain and change to the ways of working in the veterinary industry. New working bubbles, furloughing schemes, teleconsults and extra personal protective equipment (PPE) — a handful of examples of the adaptation across veterinary practices. Detrimental effects to social and in-person contact, although necessary to reduce the spread of the disease, have unknown long-term effects on mental health and wellbeing, and the veterinary industry is working hard to recover from the change and stress.
There have been government reports that highlighted significant harms to the education of children when required to wear face coverings in classrooms (Department of Education, 2022). Aside from the significant impacts on learning and communication, mask wearing is also linked to various other social and psychological harms. This article will discuss five key areas associated with mask wearing in the veterinary practice and the impacts on staff, patients and clients.