Small Animals

Employees working with small animals are required to enroll in the Animal Exposure Surveillance Program (AESP). Although there is an infrequent incidence of zoonotic diseases associated with this group of animals, most occurrences are a direct result of contact with the animals, their feces or urine, or inhaling dried excreta carried on aerosolized dust. Careful attention to hygiene, including frequent hand washing and the use of gloves and face masks when handling rodents and rabbits, will significantly reduce the risks of the following zoonotic diseases: leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Korean hemorrhagic fever, ringworm, tapeworm, and pneumocystis carinii infection.

Training in proper handling and restraint of rabbits and rodents is the single most effective measure in protecting personnel from bites and scratches.

Rat-bite fever is caused by the organism Streptobacillus moniliformis. Infection can result from a rodent bite or the fecal-oral route.

Bites or contaminated lacerations/scratches should initially be cleansed at the work site with a sponge scrub. The employee’s supervisor should be notified. The injured employee should report to Boston University’s Research Occupational Health Program (ROHP) at 617-638-ROHP for evaluation and treatment.

Allergic skin and respiratory reactions are quite common in personnel working with small animals. Hypersensitivity to animal allergens may develop after repeated exposure. The suspected allergen may be the urine and saliva proteins combined with the dust in animal bedding. If allergic reactions such as nasal congestion, sneezing, itching eyes, or asthma occur when in close proximity to the small animals, please contact the ROHP to schedule an appointment for an allergy evaluation and/or referral.