The risk of contracting an illness associated with animal care and research using animals depends on several factors such as: species used, infectious agents, toxic chemicals, carcinogens and radiation used, as well as the length and closeness of animal contact.
Initial Physical Examination:
All personnel employed in animal caretaker positions will be required to undergo a physical examination at the beginning of employment. Other personnel (including students) whose work involves special health risks (due to the nature or extent of animal contact) may be required, at the discretion of the Attending Veterinarian or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to have the physical. The employee (or student) should obtain an authorization form from the Office of Research before making an appointment with Student/Employee Health Service. This examination will routinely involve a medical history. It is important that the applicant honestly answer all questions, especially those regarding drugs, pregnancy, back problems which prevent lifting, and any known zoonotic disease such as tuberculosis. Persons who have allergies to animals should make this known during the pre-employment interview. Persons who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant should provide this information to the health personnel.
The physical will include an eye test, physical measurements, chest auscultation, ear scope, mouth and throat examination. Laboratory tests will include a urinalysis, a CBC, and tine test. A tetanus shot is required unless the person has a current inoculation. A reference serum sample may be required also at this time and stored at the Office of Health and Safety. This sample, which should represent a volume of 1 to 3 ml, will serve as a baseline should illnesses arise which could be of a zoonotic nature.
The employee/student is encouraged to take the opportunity to request services offered by the Student/Employee Health Service. These services must be paid for by the individual or their department, but present an opportunity for a further health evaluation. Some of the services available are SMAC (blood chemistry screen including cholesterol), pap smear, measles or other vaccinations, prostate specific antigen test, etc.
Follow-Up of Physical Examinations:
Employees who work with animals may be required, at the discretion of the Attending Veterinarian, the IACUC, or a medical health professional, to undergo follow-up physical examinations where indicated. Specific guidelines for categories of workers are as follows:
- Laboratory Animals:
Personnel working with laboratory animals are at a low risk of contracting diseases of a zoonotic nature. Although uncommon, some of these diseases can be serious. For these personnel, an initial physical may be required and follow-up physicals may be requested at 2-5 year intervals. Injuries received while working with any animal species should be promptly reported to an immediate supervisor and documented. When a question of the severity of the injuries exists, medical attention must be sought.
- Animal Work Involving Hazardous Agents:
Personnel working with animals receiving biohazards, chemical carcinogens and radioactive materials must be certified to have received and mastered safety techniques. It is strongly recommended that investigators planning research using carcinogens, infectious agents, and radioactive materials include in their budgets money to cover physicals for personnel at risk. Consultation with the appropriate institutional safety officer (Biological, Radiation, or Chemical) is recommended. The Department of Health and Safety may be contacted at 915-5433. Animal care personnel, unless specifically trained to work with these agents, are not to provide care of these animals or to go into rooms designated biohazard areas. The care and disposal of these animals and wastes produced by these animals are to be conducted by persons trained to safely handle these agents. For these personnel, an initial physical may be required with annual follow-ups.