Keep it clean: How hand-washing helps horse health


An Australian veterinary body is reminding horse owners and others who handle animals the importance of hand-washing as a measure to prevent disease spread.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) said good disease prevention and infection control starts with the simple act of hand-washing, which can help combat diseases that can threat public health, such as Q fever, Hendra virus and avian influenza.

AVA President Dr Paula Parker said that hand-washing before and after handling an animal is essential in preventing the spread of infection and disease between animals and humans. Hand hygiene is important in any situation where people might have contact with an animal.

“Zoonotic diseases are diseases that pass from animals to humans and vice versa and they pose serious threats to public health and safety. In the case of Hendra virus, which can pass from horses to humans, it can be fatal and has been linked to the deaths of four people.

“In recognition of clean hands being a recipe for health, it’s vital that pet owners, farmers, producers and anyone who handles animals practises good personal biosecurity, washing their hands before and after handling an animal,” Parker said.

She said that when humans and animals share an environment, bacteria are transferring freely between pets and owners, which increases the risk of the spread of infection and zoonotic diseases.

“Hand-washing before and after handling a pet is a quick action that pet owners can do to reduce the risk of infection and disease from spreading.

“Wherever animals are present, such as petting zoos, aged care facilities and hospitals with visiting dogs, and any other environments that allow close contact with animals, we should encourage good hand hygiene and have appropriate hand-washing facilities available.

“Hand-washing can’t be underestimated in the role it plays in protecting public health,” she said.

October 15 was Global Handwashing Day, with this year’s theme “Clean hands – a recipe for health”.

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