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Please note: While some information will still be current in a year, other information may already be out of date in three months time. If you are in any doubt, please feel free to ask.

Cystic fibrosis and veterinary practice/clinic (infection)

Can it be recommended for a CF patient to work in a veterinary practice? A friend of mine is opening a practice and would like to employ me on an hourly basis to answer the phone. Unfortunately, the reception desk is located pretty central. Is the risk of being infected with MRSA very high?

Dear questioner,

A [German] hygiene guideline* says that no general recommendation concering a CF patient's occupational choice can be given with regard to infection preventive aspects. It is advised to discuss this with the attending physician (individual guidance and advice). This means at the same time that no specific disadvice is given either what working in a veterinary practice is concerned. The risk of infection but also the social integration and satisfaction has to be assessed individually for each patient.

The MRSA germ is a so called "hospital bug" (hospital-acquired infection) which is found especially on surgical intensive care units, in units for burn injuries, neonatal units, retirement homes and residential care home for the elderly. Therefore, a CF patient should e.g. consider the idea of working as a nurse at one of the above mentioned places with reservation.
Since pets can also be infected with MRSA and a transmission from cats, dogs, horses, pigs etc. to humans is possible, a veterinary practice is also a possible source of infection.

If there is no direct contact to an infected pet, the risk of infection is reduced. You write about receptionist works (hotline) and this probably means that a direct contact to the pets is not intended. If all hygiene rules are kept, the infection risk can be reduced.
In this case it has to be decided individually if you want to take the "residual risk". You would have to take into account all advantages and disadvantages of the job and then make a final decision together with you attending CF doctor who knows all your findings.

I hope to have been helpful with this information.

Best regards,
Dr. Christina Smaczny

* in German: Empfehlungen der Anforderungen an die Hygiene bei der medizinischen Versorgung von Patienten mit Mukoviszidose (Leitlinie, die auf Anregung der Kommission für Krankenhaushygiene und Infektionsprävention beim Robert Koch Institut entstanden ist)