Global challenges being fought on our doorstep
By Mark Newton Clarke for The Conduit Magazine
Predictions are tricky things, my words in February regarding the coronavirus epidemic in China and the hope that by now the infection would be under control now seem so naive. But here we are, facing a medical, economic and social challenge that none of us expected to see in our lifetimes. I will only observe that the strategy adopted by Governments around the World to control the spread of the disease is, we are told, based on the best scientific evidence. But is it based on the best science available? Are we using the technology developed over the last 50 years to detect and survive? Have we faced this global challenge with a global response? Maybe next time. I cannot but help feel most of the World has been using the medieval strategy of isolationism as a last resort, not as a first response. However, now is clearly not the time to ask the questions but to do what’s necessary to protect the vulnerable members of our society.
At our clinics in Sherborne and Yeovil, both of which are still open, our staff have been split into four separate teams working 3 days on, 3 days off to provide urgent and emergency treatment for the animals under our care. In order to minimise numbers, there is only a skeleton staff at each clinic. So if your enquiry is not urgent, please be patient as our call-back list is very long and is prioritised according to need. Routine enquiries will therefore be processed after more acute or urgent cases, so please bear this in mind.
We are trying hard to minimise the potential for spread of Covid-19 and our protocol for this is on our website and Facebook pages. In essence, only animals are permitted into the buildings and all communication with owners will be conducted over the phone or via a video consultation platform (PetsApp). We will continue to treat all severe cases face-face and others can be prescribed medications based on a telephone or video consult. The link to PetsApp is being sent to all clients via email or text message but of course we realise many people will not be able to access this, so simply call the clinics for advice as normal and a nurse will triage your enquiry.
The system for dropping off patients and their collection, along with ordered prescriptions, involves a separate isolation room that allows only one person in at a time. Strict bio security procedures will be employed and we ask everyone to use the anti-viral wipes on the door handle before and after use. For all visits to the clinics, for whatever reason, we ask clients to phone us in advance to explain the nature of the enquiry and again on arrival, so that waiting times in the car park are minimised. Keeping safe distance goes without saying (I hope!) and with patience and understanding, we can reduce the risk of infection to our staff and our clients.
I briefly touched on the non-medical effects of Covid-19 by mentioning the economic and social cost that the virus will cause. It will also put our animals at risk, as we have been advised by our governing body, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, that we should not perform routine vaccination of pet animals. Although we will abide by this guidance, we hope that vaccinations will be permitted if the lock-down continues into the summer, as an epidemic caused by the infectious organisms that threaten our family pets will become more likely. Until we can resume puppy, kitten and adult vaccines, our advice is this. Keep kittens indoors and continue to interact with them to allow play and good social habits. Puppies can be exercised in your garden but stay away from ditches, streams and muddy areas as this is where leptospirosis and parvovirus can lurk. The same goes for adult dogs. Although the dry weather we have enjoyed in the latter half of March helps to kill off viral infections (of all types) it cannot be relied upon.
What will be the tone and content of my next article be in a month’s time, I wonder? I think it unwise to pass comment. All I can say now to all readers is stay safe, stay strong and stay together (mentally and spiritually, that is).
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