Health Risks Associated with Laboratory Animals
The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals mandates that "An occupational health and safety program must be part of the overall animal care and use program." One aspect of the program is the education of personnel about the health risks associated with the care and experimental use of laboratory animals. These risks can be grouped into three general categories: zoonoses, allergies, and physical hazards.
Zoonoses are diseases that are naturally transmitted between animals and humans. Such diseases are relatively uncommon in contemporary laboratory animal facilities. This is because most animals are acquired healthy from commercial sources and are housed in the protective environment of barrier facilities. Furthermore, those who care for and use laboratory animals are generally aware of the health risks associated with them and employ protective measures and personal hygiene practices to minimize risk of exposure to animal pathogens.
Allergies are hypersensitivity reactions to a specific chemical or physical substance (i.e., allergen). Examples of allergens include mold spores, proteins in food and body fluids, and/or dander of animals. Most allergens associated with animals are transmitted via inhalation, although contact allergies are also recognized. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers laboratory animal allergy an occupational illness. Respiratory symptoms in humans include rhinitis, nasal discharge, stuffiness, sneezing, itchy eyes, shortness of breath, and asthma. Allergies can also cause cutaneous lesions including urticaria (hives) and eczema.
Physical hazards in laboratory animal facilities include bites, scratches, and lifting or ergonomic injuries.
Preventing Health Consequences Related to Animal Exposure
- Being aware of the potential dangers
- Minimize exposure through the use of proper personal protective equipment, correct animal handling techniques, and effective personal hygiene measures
- Recognize the symptoms of health problems that may be related to animal exposure and seeking proper medical attention
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact the DLAM veterinary staff at 275-2651.