Angus at University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, May 2019. Photo courtesy Jessica Fedigan
Vancouver Coastal Health’s C. difficile Canine Scent Detection Program recently visited hospitals in Ottawa and Prince George. Angus and his K9 handler/Trainer Teresa Zurberg were excited to share their expertise with health care workers in other jurisdictions. This marks the first Eastern Canadian visit for the Scent Detection Program. “Hospitals are experiencing similar issues when it comes to infection control. By visiting other sites and sharing our knowledge, we spark a national conversation around preventing the spread of C. difficile in the health care environment,” says Teresa.
Photo courtesy Jessica Fedigan
Angus often alerts on furniture not designed for a hospital setting and staff lockers. An alert means Angus has detected C. difficile in the environment. Finding reservoirs of C. difficile is crucial to eradicating the superbug. Once Angus or his colleague Dodger detect the the bacterium, the area or patient room is cleaned, often with a state-of-the-art ultraviolet-C light disinfecting robot that removes 99.9% of the spores.
“While visiting the two campuses of The Ottawa Hospital and Queensway Carleton Hospital we were approached by patients’ families. They were so appreciative of the work we are doing to keep their loved ones healthier,” says Teresa. “It’s very rewarding.”
The C. difficile Canine Scent Detection Program is a multidisciplinary team based out of Vancouver General Hospital. Two certified C. difficile detection dogs, Angus and Dodger, and their K9 handers/trainers, Teresa Zurberg and Jaime Knowles, along with infection control practitioners and housekeeping staff are dedicated to reducing environmental contamination of C. difficile. To date, the team has visited 26 hospitals across Canada.
Angus is a service dog so he can fly in the main cabin. He likes his job so much that if he had his way, he would repeatedly search the plane for C. difficile. Sometimes everyone is better off if he is carefully kenneled in the pet area of the aircraft. So no, he doesn’t fly first class.