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Washington State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

Zoonoses Associated with Animals

This document provides general information on diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. Often these diseases do not make the animal appear sick but can cause serious illness in humans. Persons with specific medical conditions such as a chronic illness, immunodeficiency and pregnancy may be at higher risk of developing disease or complications from a zoonotic disease and should consult with their physician before working with animals. For more information, please refer to the zoonoses fact sheet available for the specific animal species. Additional information on zoonotic diseases can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Website, Healthy Pets, Healthy People.

At WSU, the Occupational Health & Safety program related to animal contact is named Occupational Health Training – Animals (OHT-A). Individuals completing the OHT-A training have the option to participate in the medical evaluation.  Completed medical questionnaires are sent to MultiCare for an occupational health physician’s evaluation. Recommendations are made to individuals based upon hazards posed by animals; materials used; exposure intensity, duration, and frequency; and personnel susceptibility/health history;  Depending upon the evaluation, recommendations may include medical services, including Tetanus vaccination and other prophylaxis. Individuals can elect to participate at any time, but this invitation is provided during initial training and at minimum every three years thereafter. The cost for the medical evaluation services are covered by the university and is therefore free to the individual.

Examples of diseases associated with animals include:

  • Aquarium Fish*: vibriosis, mycobacteriosis, salmonellosis and infection with pathogenic Aeromonas, Streptococcus and Erysipelothrix bacteria
  • Birds*: campylobacteriosis, cryptococcosis, mycobacteriosis, external parasites, Newcastle disease, pasteurellosis, psittacosis and influenza.
  • Cats*: rabies, capnocytophagosis, pasteurellosis, cat scratch disease, ringworm, sporothrichosis, tularemia, plague, Q fever, and external parasites, campylobacterosis, salmonellosis, infections with pathogenic E. coli, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis and toxoplasmosis.
  • Dogs*: rabies, capnocytophagosis, ringworm and external parasites, tularemia, brucellosis, leptospirosis, campylobacterosis, salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, infections with pathogenic E. coli, echinococcosis, and cutaneous and visceral larval migrans.
  • Rabbits*: ringworm, external parasites, pasteurellosis, salmonellosis, tularemia and yersiniosis.
  • Reptiles and Amphibians: campylobacteriosis, mycobacteriosis, salmonellosis.
  • Rodents*: external parasites, rat bite fever, tularemia, plague, hanta virus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, leptospirosis, yersiniosis, salmonellosis, and campylobacterosis.
  • Farm animals* (cattle, sheep, goats, swine & horses): ringworm, chlamydiosis, Q fever, brucellosis, external parasites, campylobacterosis, salmonellosis, yersiniosis, cryptosporidiosis, rabies contagious ecthyma, influenza and infections with pathogenic E. coli or drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
    • *Note: Please review the species-specific fact sheet available for these  species.

Please contact Alan Ekstrand at (509) 335-7951 or alan.ekstrand@wsu.edu for information regarding species not listed above.

 

Individuals with exposure to animals and animal environments may develop allergic reactions to animal proteins (allergens). Approximately 20-30 percent of individuals working with laboratory animals will develop an allergic reaction to animal proteins and 5-10 percent of individuals will develop asthma. Personnel may be exposed to allergens through inhalation and contact with skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Animal allergens may be present in animal dander, hair, skin, urine, saliva, serum and any contaminated feed or bedding materials. Risk factors for developing an allergic reaction include history of previous allergies to animals. The signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction are nasal discharge and congestion, conjunctivitis, tearing and eye itching, skin redness, rash or hives and lower airway symptoms (coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath).  Individuals with symptoms suggestive of an allergic reaction related to a workplace allergen should report their concerns to their supervisor and consult a physician.

Transmission of zoonotic diseases from animals is primarily by direct contact when handling animals, contact with contaminated objects such as grooming tools, accidental ingestion of feces or urine or inhalation of aerosolized materials. We can protect ourselves from most diseases by using the following procedures:

  • Handle animals appropriately and safely to avoid bites, kicks, scratches, and other injuries.
  • Thoroughly wash wounds and report injuries.
  • Do not eat, drink, apply cosmetics or use tobacco products while handling animals or in animal housing or procedure areas.
  • Wash hands after handling animals or their waste and before eating or drinking.
  • Wear clothing appropriate for handling animals such as gloves, a laboratory coat or coveralls and appropriate foot-ware. Wash the soiled clothing and foot-ware separate from your personal clothes and preferably at the animal facility.
  • Wear respiratory protection when appropriate.
  • Keep animal areas clean and disinfect equipment after using it on animals or in animal areas.

Most importantly, familiarize yourself about the animals that you will be working with and the potential zoonotic diseases associated with each species. If at any time, you suspect that you have acquired a zoonotic disease, inform your supervisor and seek medical care.

If you have further questions call:

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**Information prepared by Office of the Campus Veterinarian and the Office of Research Assurances on January 2021

References