Based on the species you are working with, you should be aware of the following potential health risks:
- Asthma and Allergy in Animal Handlers
- Bites and Scratches
- Bordatella infections
- Dermatophyte Infections
- Physical Injury
- Pasteurella Infection
- Preventing Asthma in Animal Handlers
What You Should Do
1. Be knowledgeable about the potential for developing allergies and/or asthma due to animal handling- especially if you are already allergic. When seeking medical advice for any illness, inform your physician that you work with rabbits.
2. Consider using a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator- even if you do not have any symptoms. These respirators have been shown to reduce the chance of developing laboratory animal allergies. In order to use a respirator, you must have a fit test through the Environmental Health & Safety.
3. Know proper handling techniques of rabbits to reduce the potential for injuries due to scratches and bites. Remember that rabbits have powerful hind legs- and they use them if they get stressed even if they are generally docile. If you do get an injury after handling a rabbit, seek medical attention promptly. Only trained personnel should handle rabbits. Handling and restraint training can be scheduled through Center for Comparative Medicine.
4. Gloves and long-sleeved apparel should be worn at all times when working with rabbits. Minimize wearing protective clothing, such as lab coats, outside of animal areas and laboratories.
5. Remove transport carriers from labs/offices/public areas.
6. Use disposable supplies whenever possible. Sanitize laboratory/surgical work areas after animal work.
7. Always wash your hands after coming in contact with rabbits or their saliva, urine, blood, feces, and/or bedding materials. This is the primary method of preventing laboratory acquired infections associated with the use of rabbits- even if you use gloves.
8. There are diseases that have been associated with rabbits- not commonly associated with laboratory rabbits- including Brucella, Francisella (tularemia), Q-fever, Plague, and dermatophyte infections.