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Open Access A National Survey of Laboratory Animal Workers Concerning Occupational Risks for Zoonotic Diseases

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Abstract:

In this cross-sectional survey of laboratory animal workers in the United States, 23 of 1367 persons reported 28 cases of infection with zoonotic agents from research animals at their workplace during the past 5 years, with six persons indicating that their infections were medically confirmed. Based on these data, the annualized incidence rate for work-related transmission of zoonotic agents from laboratory animals was 45 cases per 10,000 worker-years at risk (95% confidence interval, 30 to 65 cases), approximating the rate for nonfatal occupational illnesses in the agricultural production-livestock industry and for those employed in the health services during 2002. Logistic regression analysis found various characteristics of persons and their employers that were significantly associated with the likelihood of having been medically evaluated for exposure to a zoonotic agent from laboratory animals. Most (95.5% ± 1.1%) persons working with laboratory animals or their tissues indicated that they knew whom to talk to at their institution for medical evaluation and care should they be concerned about the possibility of an occupationally acquired zoonotic disease in future. However, occupational illnesses and exposures among laboratory animal workers was underreported, as 10 of the 28 (36%) alleged zoonotic disease cases were not communicated to the employee's supervisor. Lack of concern about the potential significance to their health and the perception of punitive consequences to the employee were some of the reasons cited for underreporting, an issue which must be vigorously addressed in the interests of continuing progress toward zoonotic disease prevention in this field.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Comparative Medicine, School of Medicine and Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-7190 2: Environmental Health and Safety Department, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-4400

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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