Does your hospital need a C.diff-sniffing dog to fight superbugs?

Angus, a 2-year-old English springer spaniel, is famous on Instagram and Facebook because he is the only active C.diff-detection dog in the world.

C. difficile or C.diff is a superbug that attacks people whose immune systems have been weakened by antibiotics. C. diff is the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Angus has been training for the past year-and-a-half and began working at Vancouver General Hospital this summer. “We’re thrilled to have Angus join our infection fighting team in the battle against C. diff,” says Dr. Elizabeth Bryce, Regional Medical Director Infection Control, Vancouver Coastal Health.

Angus can find C. diff in areas of the hospital that would otherwise go unnoticed to the naked eye. Finding these hidden reservoirs is crucial to eradicating C. diff. Once the bacterium is detected, the area or patient room is cleaned with a state-of-the-art UV light disinfecting robot that removes 99.9% of the C.diff spores. “We can search a large area in a short period of time,” says Angus’ owner and trainer, Teresa Zurberg.

Teresa Zurberg is all too familiar with the consequences of C.diff. She became infected after being treated for a gash on her leg. She lost 20-pounds and spent a week in hospital. “It was awful, I almost died.” Her experience with C. diff and her background as a certified trainer of bomb-detecting and drug-detecting dogs prompted her to search far and wide for a suitable K-9 partner. Angus, who hails from Montana, was the perfect fit. Vancouver General Hospital was a natural hospital to approach because Teresa’s husband, Markus Zurberg, is a Quality & Patient Safety Coordinator for Vancouver Coastal Health, which takes infection control seriously.

Vancouver Coastal Health has implemented a number of measures to combat the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms and has won national and international awards for this innovative work. It was the first health authority in Canada to utilize ultraviolet light to supplement the disinfection process, clean equipment is tagged and barcoded to ensure routine inspections and maintenance are performed, and Vancouver Coastal Health participates in voluntary as well as mandatory provincial surveillance programs. Angus will be a great addition to this comprehensive infection fighting team.

Vancouver Coastal Health is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities.

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