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Catch up on this week’s top headlines with the weekly veterinary news roundup, presented by VetX International.

Vets At Risk of Contracting Zoonotic Diseases 

Experts warn vets about the potential risks of contracting certain zoonotic diseases such as Bartonellosis.

Bartonellosis is an infectious disease produced by Bartonella bacteria. This bacteria is associated with a multitude of conditions, including Carrión’s disease, cat-scratch disease, peliosis hepatis, chronic bacteremia, endocarditis, and chronic lymphadenopathy.

Back in 2014, the journal of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases found that 28% of vets/vet techs had at least one strain of Bartonella in their blood. Due to the methods used, the true number may have been higher. Among the positive subjects, 70% experienced headaches and 68% experienced feelings of irritability. 

‘A healthy pet without parasites is a minimal danger to human health’ said Dr. Michael Lappin, a professor of infectious disease at Colorado State University.

‘The No. 1 thing in fleas that could make you sick as a veterinarian or the owner is Bartonella’.

‘We think about it as cat scratch fever, but it gets on their claws from the flea dirt [or frass]’ Dr. Lappin said.

Oftentimes, when vets present with symptoms of Bartonellosis they know more about the condition than doctors themselves. 

‘Veterinarians are the canaries in the coal mine by which physicians will ultimately understand human bartonellosis.’ commented Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of internal medicine, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

In terms of prevention, whilst Dr. Breitschwerdt acknowledges that avoiding bites and scratches is not always possible, vets should wash any bites/scratches immediately after contact and make a record of the occurrence- in case symptoms manifest later.

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How The Pandemic Has Transformed Telehealth

Telehealth restrictions and regulations have changed rapidly over the last couple of months. 

Before the covid outbreak, federal law mandated that veterinary client-patient relationships (VCPR) could only be established by a physical examination. This relationship was a prerequisite for vets to be able to prescribe drugs and diagnose/treat patients. 

Whilst many VCPR requirements were only temporarily suspended by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the demand for telemedicine isn’t subsiding. Many hospitals and veterinary practices are still overrun with clients, causing substantial strains in terms of service availability. 

Though many vets are pushing for further relaxations in telehealth policy, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is opposed to such changes. 

‘With the exception of emergency teletriage, including poison control services, the AVMA opposes remote consulting, including telemedicine, offered directly to the public when the intent is to diagnose and/or treat a patient in the absence of a VCPR.’

Therefore, only time will tell what the future for telemedicine will look like. 

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BVA Responds to Good Morning Britain’s Segment On Vet Fees 

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has raised concerns over a vet fee segment featured on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. 

The breakfast show, presented by Liz Jones and Peter Purves, asked whether there should be a national health service (NHS) for pets. Although both contributors discussed the pricing of veterinary services, no background information was given to how said pricing was determined. Given the difficulties vets already face when discussing service pricing, the comments raised a number of eyebrows in the veterinary community. 

James Russell, BVA President, said:

‘We take no issue with Good Morning Britain choosing to pose a question about whether there should be an NHS for pets’

‘However, the item at no point offered a response from the veterinary profession, and it could at the very least have looked at the reasons why veterinary businesses have to charge for their services. This omission has resulted in an item which we feel is imbalanced and does not give a fair representation of the way that practices operate.’

‘Vets swear an oath to put animal health and welfare first in the way that they work, and exercise their clinical judgment when planning appropriate care.’ 

‘As with any business veterinary practices need to charge for their services to cover their overheads, pay staff and operate effectively, whether they are independently or corporately owned.’  

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80% Of Online Consultations Can Be Completed Remotely Study Finds

Data compiled from 38,449 remote veterinary consultations has found that 80% of online consultations were able to be handled completely remotely. Only a third of patients required follow-up care and 12% required no veterinary care at all. 

Additionally to this, researchers found that 70% of YouGov pollers believed that vet services could be conducted online. 61% said they would be happy to use an online consultation service and 58% said they would be more likely to use those services over physical ones. 

In the UK, vets have been permitted to prescribe medications for animals without having in-person examinations since April. This data has been released amid the Royal Veterinary Colleges’ (RVCS) review into whether they will continue to allow this. 

Robert Dawson, vet and co-founder of Vet-AI, said:

‘Video consultations and responsible remote prescribing by experienced vets can offer pet owners a safe and quality alternative to visiting a veterinary practice, opening up services to owners who were previously excluded or who find it difficult to access vet care.’

‘We see telemedicine as complementing, not competing with the services offered by traditional practices, and welcome close collaboration with bricks and mortar vets to enhance the way pet parents can access veterinary care.’

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Vets To Be Fast-Tracked Into Australia Amid Vet Crisis 

Oversea vets are expected to get visa exemptions in an attempt to address the vet shortage in Australia. 

Warwick Vale, the president of the Australian Veterinary Association stated that at least 800 more vets were urgently needed to meet service demands, exacerbated by the pandemic and puppy boom. 

In Australia, veterinary services demand has gone up by 20-30%, and animal shelters have seen a 45% increase in dog adoptions. 

On Saturday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke stated that vets will be on the priority migration skilled occupation list. Vets looking to take advantage of this scheme must be sponsored by an employer. 

Although Dr. Vale hailed the government’s decision, he said that it was a ‘short-term measure to get over a crisis’.

‘The solution is from within in many ways… the profession has to change its workplace culture.’

‘[the vet shortage has] been a long-standing problem in-country and regional areas but since the COVID pressure it has come to the cities in a big way. We’ve got vets that are leaving the workforce in droves.’

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Three Ways To Improve Employee Mental Health During Lockdown Easing

If the past year has taught us anything, it has taught us how important the role employers play in the wellbeing of their staff. 

Although much is being done by businesses to support workers (particularly during these trying times) employers can always strive to do better.

In light of Mental Health Awareness Month, here are three ways you can improve employee mental health during the transition out of lockdown. 

Make Wellbeing A Top Priority

Unhappy workers don’t produce good work. Whilst employers have learned a lot about employee wellbeing over the last year, employers must examine how the transition out of lockdown may impact workers, and what they can do to mitigate those for those effects.  

Understand Change Fatigue

Although many workers adapted well at the beginning of the pandemic, this has had a knock-on effect on their resilience. In a study by Garter, researchers found that employees’ capacity to ‘absorb’ change without becoming exhausted fell by 50% (compared to 2019). It is therefore key to understand how this may affect employees over the coming months. 

Communicate Change Clearly 

Speaking of change, employers need to communicate what that entails. Uncertainty exacerbates anxiety, therefore it should be a top priority for employers to be transparent. Employers should examine their processes and how they can be modified to catch workers who are struggling before their mental health spirals.  

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