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
- Hanta Virus
- Lymphochoriomeningitis Virus
- Physical Injury
- 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 any medical advice for illness, inform your physician that you work with rodents.
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. Perform procedures in a laminar flow hood whenever possible. Minimize wearing protective clothing, such as lab coats, outside of animal areas. Use disposable supplies whenever possible. Sanitize laboratory work areas after animal work.
4. Know proper handling techniques of the rodents you are using. Proper rodent handling techniques is available through the Center for Comparative Medicine. Follow any posted personal protective clothing requirements.
5. Always wash your hands after coming in contact with rodents 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 rodents – even if you use gloves.