Animal and Veterinary Sciences
Anne Lichtenwalner, Sue Ishaq
Timothy Bowden, Christopher Mares, Jim Weber
Zoonotic pandemics are rare and finding cures can be difficult, especially if the disease is new to scientists. Early containment can be challenging if protocols are not in place to help limit the spread. The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic hit suddenly, and the number of cases grew dramatically over a short period of time. The escalation of the disease outpaced the ability of many businesses and institutions to implement protocols to keep their practice safe while remaining open. This project researched the effect COVID-19 had on small animal veterinary practices. In order to answer the research question, “How has COVID-19 affected small animal veterinary practices in Maine?”a survey (approved by the University of Maine Institutional Review Board) was used to ask practitioners how COVID-19 affected daily operations, customer relations and long-term operations. Participants were asked about the protocols they implemented as a result of this pandemic. The goal was to obtain information on what worked well, what did not work well, and what lessons were learned. This University of Maine Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved survey was created using Qualtrics. It was emailed to 94 veterinary practices across the state of Maine (3 bounced back and 5 failed) Of the 86 practices contacted, 13 practices responded to the anonymous survey resulting in a 15% participation rate. The participants reported, to varying degrees, having to reduce hours of operation, working with a limited staff and struggling to get supplies. In regards to the implementation of safety measures they reported using curbside services, contactless payment processes, wearing masks, six-foot distancing and making modifications to work spaces. They reported that their negative economic impact from COVID-19 was a result of losing clients, limited hours of operation, and having to increase prices to cover costs. Six of the thirteen practices responding to the income impact question reported an income shortage compared to other years, and three of these six reported having to increase prices to make up for the difference. Understanding how COVID impacted these practices could help inform a best-practices plan to provide guidelines for practitioners to implement if another pandemic outbreak were to occur. It is presumed that many of these best practices would be effective in responding to other zoonotic or human-human disease transmission events, and the guidelines could be implemented in other, smaller-scale scenarios.
Ferris, Amber, "Action Plan in Response to Future Pandemics" (2021). Honors College. 657.