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Comparative Medicine

Hazards/Exposure Control

Four areas of potential hazards encountered when working with animals are (1) injury from animal bites or scratches; (2) trauma; (3) allergic responses, and (4) contracting zoonotic diseases. The occupational health program for those with exposure to animals specifically addresses each of these areas.

(1) Animal Bite Management : Even if an injury seems trivial, bites or scratches received from any species require medical attention due to the potential for disease transmission and infection. Procedures to follow in the event of an animal bite or scratch are as follows:

•  Carefully express the wound and apply gentle pressure around the area to encourage bleeding. If you are assisting the injured person, wear gloves during all procedures.

•  Rinse the wound under warm running water for no less than 15 minutes, continue to massage the site.

•  Wash the wound and surrounding area with soap and water for 5 minutes.

•  Pat the injury dry using sterile gauze pads.

•  Cover the wound with a pad and secure it with gauze and tape. First aid kits containing disinfectant, sterile gauze and tape are mounted near the sink in each of the following animal facility areas:

  BMSB Clinic, Room 262

  Annex Clinic, Room 182

  CPB, Room 33

  BSEB, Room 22B

  RB, Rooms R126, R226, R319

  RP1, Room 437

  Fort Reno, Room 128

•  Report the injury to the supervisor, who will assist in obtaining medical attention. Call Employee Health Services at the Family Medicine Center Green Clinic (271-3100) located at 900 NE 10th Street.  For emergency or after hours care, go to the Emergency Room at Presbyterian, or the nearest emergency room.


When exposed to a baboon through bite, scratch, eye or mucous membrane splash with urine, feces, blood or secretions, use one of the special first aid “Baboon Bite Kits” located in each baboon holding area. The bite kits are identified by a “baboon bite kit” logo, and contain forms and instructions unique to these incidents.    

(2) Trauma: Working in an environment which includes the handling and care of research animals can present an increased possibly for sustaining injuries. Working with heavy animals and cages can stress muscles and joints, and wet floors in the animal rooms and cage wash areas increase the risk of slipping and falling. Animal bites present a greater risk than just the wound because of pathogens found on the oral mucosa or in the saliva of common laboratory animals. Environmental factors, as well as factors intrinsic to the animal, can lead to greater risk for injury. Animals respond to sounds and smells, sometimes undetectable to humans, which can frighten the animal. Animals may have a flight zone or a particular sign of distress that animal handlers should be aware of to reduce risk. Inappropriate handling can induce discomfort, pain and distress, provoking an animal to inflict injury on the handler. Animals, especially nonhuman primates, may grab or get caught in loose clothing, long hair, etc., or may spit or throw feces. Guidelines for preventing injury include:


•  Know the animal's flight zone and signs of distress.

•  Use proper handling technique (attend IACUC/Animal Resources training; consult a veterinarian).
•  Minimize the use of sharps and glass and ensure their proper disposal.
•  Determine the potential risk and wear appropriate protective equipment for the hazard, which may include leather gloves, latex/nitrile gloves, face shield, etc. Observe all posted precautions.
•  If you must lift heavy objects, contact the EHSO for safe lifting procedures and training.
•  Minimize the amount of time a floor is allowed to remain wet, and use slip-resistant footwear, mats and signage whenever wet floors cannot be avoided.

(3) Animal Allergies/Asthma : Animal care personnel and biomedical research personnel are exposed to animal products such as dander, hair, scales, fur, saliva, and body wastes containing powerful allergens that can cause both respiratory and skin disorders ranging from mild irritation to a severe response. Sources of exposure to animal allergens vary with animal species, but among the common laboratory animals, allergens have been found in the urine of rats, the urine, saliva and pelts of guinea pigs, rabbit pelts, cat saliva and dander, and dog dander. Exposures to rats, mice and rabbits have frequently been associated with the development of occupational asthma. People may also be exposed through bites or scratches. Inhalation is another way for animal allergens to enter the body. After a period of time ranging from several months to years, sufficient quantities of allergens may be inhaled to cause sensitization. All animal rooms at the BMSB core facility have negative air pressure, which reduces the possibility of incidental exposure to animal allergens. When the sensitized individual becomes exposed again, symptoms may develop even if the exposure to the allergen is minute. Observing the below precautions will help reduce exposure to animal allergens and help prevent animal-induced asthma and allergies.


•  Perform animal manipulations within ventilated hoods or safety cabinets when possible.

•  Avoid wearing street clothes while working with animals. Leave work clothes at the workplace to avoid potential exposure problems for family members.

•  Keep cages and animal areas clean. Take particular care to control exposures during cleaning by minimizing dust and aerosols.

•  Reduce skin contact with animal products such as dander, serum, and urine by always using gloves (non-latex and powder-free exam gloves are an option for those who have allergic responses to either) when handling animals, caging or animal products.

•  Wear lab coats and facemasks when working with animals. Approved particulate respirators with face shields are appropriate when the possibility for aerosolization and splatter occur.

•  While personnel not working in a laboratory setting may have minimal potential for exposure to animals, it is still important that all OUHSC employees receive information about animal safety issues. Training in methods to educate workers about animal allergies, prevention and treatment of animal bites and scratches, education in zoonotic diseases, and steps for risk reduction are all included in the mandatory annual safety training conducted by the OUHSC EHSO.

•  Health monitoring and appropriate counseling and medical follow-up for personnel who have become sensitized or have developed allergy symptoms is available through Employee Health Services.

(4) Zoonotic Diseases : The risk of acquiring a zoonotic disease is dependent upon the incidence of the disease in the animal population, the precautionary measures taken to prevent infection (including personal protective equipment and available vaccinations), the speed with which action is taken to respond to a problem, and the availability of effective drugs and treatment. Strategies for staying healthy in the laboratory animal environment include the following:

•  Wear exam gloves when handling animals and animal equipment, and wash hands frequently. The most common method of contracting a zoonotic infection is by placing infectious material in the mouth, nose, or eyes.

•  Wear personal protective clothing and equipment as appropriate and do not take unlaundered protective clothing home.


Tables 1 and 2 includes strategies to help guard against contracting a zoonotic infection.

Table 1
Diseases, Protective Equipment, and Medical Monitoring/Vaccinations for Certain Animal Species



Potential Zoonotic Disease

Minimum Personal Protective Equipment*

Medical Monitoring/Vaccinations**



Circopithecine herpesvirus 1 : CHV 1 ( Herpesvirus


Hepatitis A

Shigellosis (Shigella spp.)

Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter spp.)

Disposable surgical face mask

Disposable gloves

Disposable shoe covers

Disposable hair bonnet

Disposable gown

Face shield***

Baseline and annual physical

Serum banking (recommended

Tetanus immunization*

TB test (every 6 months)**

Hepatitis B immunization (recommended for those working with apes)



Leptospirosis (Leptospira interrogans)

Salmonellosis (Salmonella spp.)

Rabies virus

Gloves appropriate for the hazard (leather to protect

against bites, latex/nitrile to protect against biological


Face protection (mask, goggles, face shield) when

Potential for splash of hazardous material exists

Baseline and annual physical

Serum banking (recommended)

Tetanus immunization**

Rabies vaccination


Toxoplasmosis ( Toxoplasma gondii )

Cat-scratch fever ( Bartonella henseiae )


Rabies virus

Microsporosis/Ringworm ( Epidermophyton floccosum, Microsporum spp., Trichophyton spp.)

Gloves appropriate for the hazard (leather to protect

against bites, latex/nitrile to protect against biological


Face protection (mask, goggles, face shield) when

potential for splash of hazardous material exists

Baseline and annual physical

Serum banking (recommended)

Tetanus immunization**


Q fever ( Coxiella bunettii )

Gloves appropriate for the hazard (leather to protect

against bites, latex/nitrile to protect against biological


Face protection (mask, goggles, face shield) when

potential for splash of hazardous material exists

Baseline and annual physical

Serum banking (recommended)

Titer ( C. bunettii )evaluation**

Tetanus immunization**





Gloves appropriate for the hazard (leather to protect

against bites, latex/nitrile to protect against biological


Face protection (mask, goggles, face shield) when

potential for splash of hazardous material exists

Baseline and annual physical

Serum banking (recommended)

Tetanus immunization**

Purpose bred Rodents







Gloves appropriate for the hazard (leather or metal weave to protect against bites, latex/nitrile to protect against biological material)

Face protection (mask, goggles, face shield) when

potential for splash of hazardous material exists

Baseline and annual physical

Serum banking (recommended)

Tetanus immunization**


* For routine work where the animal is not known to be infected with an organism for research purposes. Where infection is known, the appropriate Animal Biosafety Level precautions shall be used (see Table VI-3, OUHSC/OU-Tulsa Laboratory Safety Manual at http:w3.ouhsc.edu/ehso/abman/sect6-02.pdf

**Indicates a vaccination/procedure necessary to comply with the Occupational Health Program required by the IACUC and the Division of Animal Resources

**Persons performing cage cleaning, moving, or handling of a conscious animal must wear additional protective equipment.




Table 2

Recommended Safe Work Practices

Practices to Reduce the Number of Employees at Risk of Exposure

Restrict access to the work area.

Provide warnings of hazards (such as biohazards or chemical hazards) and advice about special requirements (such as personal protective equipment or immunization requirements).

Practices to Reduce Exposures by Direct and Indirect Contact

Keep hands away from mouth, nose, eyes, and skin.

Wash hands when contaminated and when work activity is completed; especially after handling animals and before leaving the work area.

Decontaminate work surfaces before and after work and after spills of a hazardous agent.

Use appropriate methods to decontaminate equipment, surfaces, and wastes.

Substitute less-hazardous materials for hazardous materials whenever possible.

Wear personal protective equipment while performing work and remove it before leaving the work area.

Practices to Reduce Percutaneous Exposures

Eliminate the use of sharp objects whenever possible.

Use needles with self-storing sheaths or those designed to protect the user.

Select products with puncture-resistant features whenever possible.

Use puncture-resistant sharps containers for disposal of sharps.

Handle animals with care and proper restraint to prevent scratches and bites.

Practices to Reduce Exposure by Ingestion

No mouth pipetting allowed.

Do not smoke, eat, drink, or apply cosmetics in areas used for the care and use of research animals.

Keep hands and contaminated items away from mouth.

Protect mouth from splash and splatter hazards.

Practices to Reduce Exposure by Inhalation

Use chemical fume hoods, BSCs, and other containment equipment to control inhalation hazards.

Handle fluids carefully to avoid spills and splashes and the generation of aerosols.

Use in-line HEPA filters to protect the vacuum system.


Consult the OUHSC/OU-Tulsa Laboratory Safety Manual (VI-62) for additional precautions, including precautions for animal biosafety levels 2 and 3 at http://www.ouhsc.edu/ehso/labman/Section%206%20-%20Biological%20Safety.pdf






Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)
Biomedical Sciences Building - Room 101
(405) 271-7381

On Campus Mailing Address:
IACUC Office - BMSB 101

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