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Ultrasound gel supply shortages predicted due to biosecurity mandate from UK Health & Security Agency

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Public Health England puts an end to refillable ultrasound gel

As if getting hold of the things we need was not becoming difficult (and expensive) enough lately, it looks like buying ultrasound gel in bulk may soon be becoming a thing of the past,  too. Last November, the UK Health & Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) issued an alert regarding the infection risk posed by ultrasound gel. They stated that “a long-standing outbreak of Burkholderia cepacia is linked to a non-sterile ultrasound gel product used in hospitals in the UK and Ireland,” and the finger has been pointed at the practice of refilling smaller gel bottles from larger gel cubitainers.

As a result, they state that only non-refillable bottles can be used, that large containers used for decanting are disposed of (as well as any refillable bottles), and purchasing systems adjusted so that they cannot be reordered. While this alert has been issued to hospitals and healthcare services, this has a knock-on effect for those of us scanning small animals because ultrasound gel manufacturers and suppliers are no longer willing to package gel in larger containers for refilling given the huge drop of demand for this product.

Biosecurity and hygiene are important, and this is stressed on all reputable ultrasound training courses. The fact that our scanning equipment and consumables can be a vector for disease transmission is well known, and accredited scanners take this threat seriously, cleaning equipment carefully between clients with products like Clinell wipes. It is frustrating that the option of buying gel in larger quantities is being taken away from small animal scanners, which has not only a financial impact but also an environmental one: for many of us, the decision to refill our own gel bottles is not only to save money but also to cut down on plastic waste.

Given that there are no published cases of disease transmission in the veterinary sector at the present time, we have taken the decision to stock up on the last remaining 5l cubes of gel currently available. While it is possible that gel cubes may be manufactured specifically for the veterinary scanning industry in the future, we foresee shortages in the near-term. We advise all of our clients to consider stocking up on ultrasound gel now to protect themselves from future shortages or complete unavailability.


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