Occupational Health for Animal Researchers

Occupational Health for Animal Workers

Humans and animals can share diseases. The Occupational Health Program is preventative medicine for people at Wake Forest School of Medicine who are exposed to animals in research or teaching. The program:

  • Documents testing people for specific diseases, such as tuberculosis and measles
  • Provides vaccination against acquiring specific diseases, such as tetanus

Program Requirements

Program Requirements Differ Depending Upon the Type of Animal

Animal Occupational Health Program
Allergy Survey   TB*  Tetanus Measles, Mumps, & Rubella  Rabies
Nonhuman Primates*  X  X  X  X  
Sheep  X    X    
Dogs, Cats**, Ferrets, Bats
 X    X    X
Small Animals — hamsters, guinea pigs, rodents (rats, mice), rabbits, fish, other farm animals, birds, cold-blooded vertebrates (reptiles, amphibians)  X    X    

*TB testing occurs every 6 months for persons working with nonhuman primates because tuberculosis can be devastating and terminal to these animals.

**Toxoplasmosis: Titer women of childbearing ability who work with cats. If negative, educate. Remove from lab if pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

For a more complete list by species, see Occupational Health and Zoonotic Concerns When Using Laboratory Animals or Tissues.

Summary of Program Requirements

  • Allergy Survey/Questionnaire
    • Persons working with animals can develop allergies to particular groups of animals even after years of exposure. The annual questionnaire is designed to identify employees with these allergies.
  • Tuberculin Blood Test
    • All employees and visitors working with Nonhuman Primates must document either a negative TB blood test or normal chest radiograph to show no active signs of tuberculosis. For more details, visit the Employee Health website.
  • Tetanus
    • Documentation of tetanus immunization must occur every 10 years for employees or visitors who will be exposed to any animal in research or teaching.
  • Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR)
    • An MMR screen is required of all new employees whether they will be exposed to animals or not. It is also required for visitors who will be exposed to nonhuman primates. If immunity is not demonstrated, then immunization may be recommended.
  • Rabies
    • Rabies vaccine will be offered to employees who work with dogs, cats, ferrets or bats.

Unique Health Risks

  • Q-Fever (Coxiella bernetii)
    • Sheep and other ruminants are common hosts. In humans the disease is much like the flu, although it can progress to serious illness in a small percentage of the population, particularly those with certain heart conditions or compromised immune systems. Consult with Employee Health Services before working with these animals if you have these conditions.
  • Herpes B virus (herpesvirus simiae, Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1)
    • This virus is carried by nonhuman primates of the genus Macaca, which includes rhesus, cynomolgus, bonnet, pigtail and stumptail monkeys. Risk is low with proper protective equipment and procedures, but exposure can be fatal to humans.

      Nonhuman Primate Post Exposure Plan
  • Pregnancy
    • Some diseases can be transmitted to a fetus. Of additional concern during pregnancy are disease carried by cats (Toxoplasmosis), ruminants (Q fever) and primates.
  • Confidentiality of Medical Records
    • The contents of these records are considered private health information and are protected under HIPAA regulations. Any consultation with Employee Health Services staff about your health and working with animals is also confidential. As a general rule, results of your tests will not be shared; however, some additional persons including WFU IACUC staff will learn whether or not you have completed program requirements as part of their duties. Information will be shared between the IACUC and Employee Health Services only on a case-specific, need-to-know basis.
  • Identification
    • For enrollment by non-employees, we need your date of birth (DOB) and your full name to confirm your identity and to prevent us from putting the wrong information in your record.

Medical Campuses

This Program is administered by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Employee Health Services. WFBMC Employee Health Services will inform you by email of your requirements, based on the information provided about you in the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol.

Reynolda Campus

The occupational health program is designed to protect both you and animal populations. Your specific medical requirements in the program depend upon the species of animal involved. Often times the only requirements are an annual test for TB and completion of a questionnaire about your allergies.

Wake Forest Baptist Employee Health Services will inform you by email of your requirements, based on the information provided about you in the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol.

There are different options for completing the medical requirements and communicating with Wake Forest Baptist Employee Health Services, depending upon whether you are faculty/staff or a student/trainee. Be aware that some options may include out of pocket expenses.

For Reynolda Campus Faculty and Graduate Students

Option 1. WF Baptist Medical Center Employee Health Services

  • Location: WF Baptist Medical Center, Meads Hall, Ground Floor 
  • Contact: 336-716-4801 (available 24/7)
  • Map and directions to the Medical Center. Park in the WFBMC visitor lots for free. 
  • Free Intercampus Shuttle Service between the Reynolda and Medical Center Campuses 336-716-7433
  • All costs are covered by the Medical Center. Test results are managed internally.

For Undergraduate Students and Trainees

Option 1. Student Health Services (SHS) located on the Reynolda campus

  • Check your Student Health Portal for immunizations to save a visit to SHS. 
  • Most costs covered for those with Student Blue. Ask first, or you may incur out of pocket costs. 
  • You must communicate your test results to WFBMC Employee Health Services 

For All

Option 2. Your own physician