Working with animals exposes animal handlers and researchers to some unique occupational hazards. Some animals, such as sheep and monkeys, can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Researchers working with mice or other rodents have up to a 20% chance of developing allergies to these animals; and 20% of those who are allergic can develop occupational asthma.
The Department of Animal Care requires all workers who handle animals to undergo an annual allergy assessment and education about allergies to animals. The questionnaire also asks about the species of animal that the worker handles. The questionnaire may be accessed from our website, or it can be filled out at the time of the Animal Care Exam. Those reporting frequent allergy symptoms will be contacted by OHC to schedule a clinic visit where we will evaluate the need for a respirator, and can help the individual obtain treatment if needed. Those reporting exposure to animals that carry diseases will also be contacted to schedule an appointment for a physical or appropriate immunizations (see special physicals, below.) Alternately, if you would like to opt out of the annual allergy assessment, an Animal Allergen Declination Statement form must be downloaded, signed, and faxed to OHC at 936-0966.
People who work with animals or animal tissue that can carry zoonotic diseases are required to be screened in person by Occupational Health. At Vanderbilt, these animals are primarily macaque monkeys (simian herpes B virus,) sheep (Q-fever) and various species at risk for rabies (dog, opossum, raccoon.) At these annual physicals, we evaluate the individual health risks that can make someone more susceptible to these diseases, counsel the individual about ways to further reduce their risk, and review the importance of reporting potential exposures.
For more information on the Animal Care Occupational Health and Safety Program, contact us at 936-0955.
Keywords: allergy, allergies, asthma, animals, screening, survey, OSHA, AAALAC