I received this question on hospital visitation animals today…

For patients who are on contact precautions for a multidrug resistant organism, what other than hand hygiene could be suggested?  I am currently rewriting our hospital infection control policy related to pet therapy and visitation with clients with a MDRO [multidrug resistant organism]. I was thinking that visitation of clients with a MDRO should not be allowed??? Any advice?

I am surprised at how often I get asked about pets and patients with multidrug resistant infections. These patients are typically isolated and managed with "contact precautions". The goal of these precautions is to reduce the amount of contact between the infected patients and other people (staff and patients) and includes the use of barriers (e.g. gowns, gloves) to reduce the risk of disease transmission when contact must occur. If the goal is to reduce contact, we shouldn’t be allowing patients with these infections to have contact with pets. Pet therapy animals usually visit a large number of patients in the hospital, and we don’t want them transmitting an infection to the other patients they visit. Pets are also accompanied by people (their owners), who we don’t want to  expose to infection and/or to transmit infection to other patients. So, visitation of these high-risk patients by animals should not be allowed. Animal visitation can have very positive effects and its unfortunate that people with multidrug resistant infections should be restricted from these programs, however it’s for the greater good of other patients in the hospital, as well as the pet and its owners.

More information about pet therapy programs can be found in our hospital visitation archives.

Image from: http://www.thewholechild.us/integrative_/2006/04/pet_therapy.html
(It’s a cute cartoon. I just have to ignore the fact that the dog is on the bed (i.e. the patient’s living space) without being on a barrier such as towel or drape.)