Small Animal Zoonoses

Employees working with small animals are required to enroll in the Research Occupational Health Program. 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. Contact BU ASC at for training in handling these species.

Rat-bite fever is caused by the organism Streptobacillus moniliformis. Infection can result from a rodent bite or the fecal-oral route. (The presence of this organism is very unusual in healthy, inbred laboratory rats obtained from an approved vendor.)

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 617-414-ROHP for evaluation and treatment.

**If you suspect that you have contracted an infection from rodents or rabbits, contact the Research Occupational Health Program at 617-414-ROHP.

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