The following links go to more information provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
Humans usually are not susceptible to infectious diseases suffered by animals. However, there are some important exceptions. Infections of animals may, on some occasions, produce significant disease in people. These infections are called zoonotic diseases. They are communicated from animals to humans. In many cases the animal shows little, if any, sign of illness.
The Occupational Health and Safety Program is designed to inform individuals who work with animals about potential zoonoses (diseases of animals transmissible to humans), personal hygiene, and other potential hazards associated with animal exposure. The following information sheets are categorized by types of animals.
An allergy is an overreaction of the body’s immune system to specific substances. Related to animals, most reactions are caused by animal proteins found in saliva, dander, and urine.
The earliest symptoms of an allergy include nasal stuffiness, runny nose, sneezing, red irritated eyes and hives. Workers may also develop asthma. These symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. An employee may develop severe breathing problems, and symptoms should be caught early.
Most people working with animals develop allergic reactions within the first twelve months of exposure. Infrequently, reactions occur after several years. Initially, symptoms are present within minutes. Approximately half of the workers will have initial symptoms subside and recur three to four hours after exposure.
Since mice and rats are studied most frequently, more allergies to these animals are reported than others. However, any animal used in research can be a potential source of allergic symptoms.
Statistics show that one out of every three to five people who work with animals will develop allergic symptoms. One in twenty workers with allergies to animal proteins will develop asthma as a result of animal contact.
People who already have a history of allergies to other animals (such as cats and dogs) may be at higher risk of developing allergy to animals. Handling animals and cleaning cages may put people at higher risk for developing allergies.
The best strategy for reducing the likelihood of developing an allergic reaction is to minimize exposure to proteins found in dander, urine, and saliva.
For any questions regarding pre-existing animal allergies or newly developed allergies along the course of your studies, please contact Occupational Medicine at 541-737-7566.