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Hazardous agents





Protective clothing


Medical Surveillance and Vaccinations

Bites and Injuries


Security and Safety


RAR Policy on Use of Image Capturing Devices

Nonhuman Primate Biosafety



Copyright 2008, University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

Occupational Health and Safety


It is important that personnel be protected from risks associated with the use of animals in research and teaching. These risks may be presented by the animal itself, organisms harbored by the animal, or hazardous agents used as part of the study protocol.

Federal Regulations mandate that all persons having contact with animals in research be enrolled in an occupational health program. The University of Minnesota's Research Occupational Health Program (ROHP) consists has two major components - a training component and a medical component.

The training component is web based and involves self education on various hazards that may be associated with animal use in research. The content of the training is based on the particular species of animal or other risk factors involved in individual research projects. Once the material is reviewed, the training is self reported through the ROHP system. Individuals are notified regarding which parts of the training they need to complete. The training material is available on this web site.

The medical component of ROHP is conducted by Health Partners. Individuals will be notified regarding which medical requirements need to be completed and how to consult with a health care provider at Health Partners. Forms to assist employees with meeting ROHP Requirements may be found at the Office of Occupational Health and Safety website.


  • Laboratory safety training is required for all personnel working in research laboratories.  Topics such as safety and waste management are covered.  This training is offered by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (DEHS).
  • Animal handling training is available from RAR. This training is required to work with nonhuman primates and spf rodents. Additional information on restraint and handling of common laboratory animals is available here.
  • Diseases transmissible from humans to animals are called zoonoses.  All personnel should be familiar with zoonotic diseases present in the species they work with and the means of preventing them.  An RAR veterinarian or Health Partners can provide additional information on these diseases.

Hazardous agents

The use of hazardous agents and substances requires special review by DEHS and a plan for personnel protection and waste disposal.  This information must be provided to the IACUC in Appendix G of the Animal Usage Form.  For information in the following areas, contact:


  • Radiation- Radiation Protection Division, DEHS. ph 625-6764 
  • Infectious agents and Recombinant DNA require approval by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). 
  • Chemical Hygiene plan DEHS Instructions
  • Waste disposal- Hazardous Waste Division   ph: 624-6060 
  • Hazardous Anesthetics 
    • All gas anesthetics should be used with appropriate waste gas scavenging systems.
    • Ether must be used in a fume hood and stored appropriately.  
      • If animals are euthanized with ether, the carcass must be left in an open container within a fume hood for 30 minutes to allow the ether to evaporate, before they are bagged and placed within a carcass cooler. 
    • Urethane is a carcinogen.  It should only be handled in a fume hood using gloves.  It should not be used for anesthesia in survival studies.

Sharps handling and disposal

The use of sharps, such as needles, scalpels and glass can present a risk to personnel if handled and disposed of improperly.  In research settings, sharps may be contaminated with animal blood or body fluids, or with unknown substances.  It is always safest to assume they are a potential hazard. 
To prevent exposure of personnel to these agents and to prevent sharps and biohazards from showing up in the environment and/or being used by unauthorized personnel, proper disposal procudures must be followed.  The standard guidelines provided below are from DEHS.  A video is available from DEHS demonstrating these guidelines.

  • Safety practices should be customized for a laboratory and written into the labs SOPs.
  • The less you handle sharps, the less likely you are to have an accident.
  • Use adequate restraint when working with an animal.
  • Place your sharps in a carrying container prior to use, rather than carrying them in your hand or pocket.
  • Do not recap or remove needles from syringes after use.
  • Place all sharps immediately into a sharps container. (Bring one with you to the area you are working in. Yes, even to the dog's run).
  • If you must remove a needle use a mechanical device. (A forceps).
  • Use an approved sharps container, and use it only for sharps (so you don't get in the habit of reaching in for your lunch). Seal it before it is completely full. (Rather than trying to stuff more in, get a new one when the old one is 3/4 full).
  • If you do injure yourself with a sharp object, clean the wound immediately and seek medical attention. Review the DEHS Needlestick procedures. 
    • If you know what the hazard is indicate that to your care provider.
    • If the sharp object was contaminated with body fluids from a nonhuman primate follow the instructions in the “Bite Kit” in the animal housing area, or contact RAR at 4-9100 for assistance.


Protective Clothing

All personnel in contact with animals should use clothing dedicated to the animal work area (RAR's staff is issued scrubs, lab coats are recommended for investigators).  In addition to this general recommendation, some animal rooms may have additional requirements.  These rooms will be posted with the requirements and adherence to the requirements is requisite to continued access to the room. 

The use of gowns, masks, gloves, shoe covers and head protection all provide barriers to the transmission of disease to humans, as well as preventing animal diseases from being carried back and forth between animal housing areas. Rooms with protective clothing requirements include: 


  • Nonhuman primate rooms - 2 pairs of gloves, hair cover, mask, gown, shoe covers, eye protection required
  • SPF rodent rooms - sleeves, gloves, mask and hair cover required when working in a hood, gown or dedicated laboratory coat recommended
  • Biohazard rooms - gloves, hair cover, mask, gown, shoe coveres required, eye protection recommended
  • Other rooms with specific diagnosed disease problems, i.e orf in sheep .

Medical Surveillance and Vaccination

Research Animal Resources, the IACUC and the Office of Occupational Health and Safety cooperate to provide surveillance and vaccinations for common zoonotic diseases that present risk to research animal users. Animal users must complete an Animal Exposure Questionnaire and do online training. Personnel will receive reminders and be offered free vaccination and testing procedures as detailed below. Additional information on common zoonoses and means of prevention are listed here and here.

  • Tetanus vaccine is needed every 10 years, and may be boosted after injuries.  This vaccine is required for all personnel with animal contact, unless it may not be administered for health reason.
  • Tuberculosis screening All personnel in contact with nonhuman primates must be screened for tuberculosis to prevent infection of animals in the colony (the animals are also screened semi-annually).  Intradermal skin testing (Mantoux) or IGRA (Quant-Gold) blood test is performed every six months, or thoracic radiography every two years. 
  • Rabies prophylaxis vaccination is offered to all personnel in contact with dogs and cats.  Follow-up titers are performed every 2 years to determine if booster vaccination is needed.  This vaccination is not required, however, if personnel decline the vaccine, they will be asked to sign a waiver indicating that they have been informed of the risks.
  • Toxoplasmosis testing is available to all women of child-bearing age working with cats.  Counseling on preventing exposure of pregnant women to infection by Toxoplasma gondii is also available.

Bites and Injuries

Virtually any animal can injure a human by biting, scratching or kicking.  Animal bites and scratches should be promptly cleaned.  Other injuries should be treated according to standard first aid procedures. If further medical attention is needed, it is available from Health Partners (612-339-3663) or The Fairview-University Hospital ER (after hours 612-273-3000). 

          In addtion:


  • For dog and cat bites, notify RAR (4-9100) so the animal can be quarantined for rabies surveillance.
  • For nonhuman primate bites (MACAQUE ONLY), scratches or exposure of mucous membranes to primate body fluids, ALWAYS SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION.  Follow instructions in “bite kits” located in housing area to prevent infection with cercopithecine herpesvirus I (B virus). See DEHS guidelines too. 


  • Allergies to laboratory animals may develop with prolonged exposure.  Personnel who already have allergies to other things may be at increased risk for developing allergies to animals.  It is important to consult with your doctor about suspected allergies (cold-like symptoms, difficulty breathing, rashes).  Allergies can be managed through procedures such as desensitization, antiallergic medication, and prevention of exposure using personal protective clothing and equipment.
  • The Occupational Health & Safety office manages a Respiratory Protection Program for employees.
  • Allergies can develop to latex gloves and other materials.  Staff should be familiar with the signs of latex allergies and the means of preventing it.

Security and Safety

Security is an important issue that is the responsibility of both investigators and animal care staff .  Security includes protection from animal rights incursion, theft and vandalism.  Prevention of these problems involves increasing  staff awareness of security issues, limiting access to areas, protecting equipment and data, and following proper reporting procedures in case of an emergency.
  • Any emergencies such as fire, natural disasters, personnel injury or security breaches should be reported to the University Police by calling 911.  Be sure to inform the dispatcher if animals are in the area.  The dispatcher will contact RAR to address animal health and safety issues. 
  • Also review the Research Animal Program Emergency Guide

RAR Policy on Use of Image Capturing Devices

The capturing of images (including photographs, video recordings, movies, or other images of any kind in any media) is strictly prohibited in all areas of the Research Animal Resources facilities, without prior approval of the Director for each instance. This policy applies to the capturing of images using any and all devices capable of recording images including, but not limited to, film cameras, digital cameras, video recording devices with or without audio recording, cell phones and iPads with picture capabilities. The Research Animal Resources Director established this policy to protect the integrity and confidentiality of university research, provide a minimally disruptive atmosphere for animal residents, and promote a safe and respectful workplace.


A zoonosis is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans.  In many cases, the disease can also be transmitted from humans back to animals.  Zoonotic diseases can be prevented through a variety of means, including use of protective clothing, prevention of bites and scratches, proper sharps handling procedures, medical surveillance and vaccination programs, and post-injury treatment. A chart of common zoonotic diseases is provided below.  Additional diseases may be significant depending on the species of animal, its microbiological status or the handler's health status. 

Any personnel with a compromised immune system (e.g. pregnancy, taking anti-cancer drugs or corticosteroids, having an immune deficiency disease like HIV infection) should consult with their physician or with a Health Partners physician about their work with animals.


Links to additional resources on zoonoses:

[UC Davis Risk Assessment Tool] [U of Arizona Animal Hazard Page] [Zoonosis Bibliography] [Centers for Disease Control]


Most Common Zoonotic Diseases

Species Tuberculosis Rabies Toxoplasmosis Cercopithecine Herpesvirus 1
(Herpes B virus)
Tetanus Orf Ringworm Q-Fever Salmonella Campylobacter Psittacosis
Laboratory rabbits and rodents (rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pings and chinchillas) . . . . x . x . . . .
Dogs . x . . x . x . x x .
Cats . x x . x . x . x . .
Ferrets . x . . x . x . x . .
Nonhuman Primates x x . x x . x . x x .
Swine . . . . x . x . x x .
Goats and Sheep . . . . x x x x x . .
Cattle . x . . x . x . x . .
Horses . x . . x . x . x . .
Birds . . . . x . x . x x x
Reptiles . . . . . . . . x . .
Wild carnivores . x . . x . x . . . .
Wild ungulates . . . . x . x . . . .
Prevention Respiratory mask during necropsy, regular testing of animals Prophylactic vaccination of handlers, post-bite treatment of victim and animal quarantine Serum titers to assess prior exposure, avoidance of animal feces, protective clothing and respiratory protection Post-exposure treatment and assessment Prophylactic vaccination Protective clothing Protective clothing Respiratory protection and protective clothing when working with fetal tissues or parturient animals
Protective clothing Protective clothing Respiratory protection, protective clothing

Species Plague (Yersinia pestis) Tularemia Hantavirus Cutaneous mycobacteriosis
Amphibians and Fish . . . x
Wild or feral rodents and rabbits x x x .
Prevention Protective clothing, early treatment of suspicious lesions Protective clothing Respiratory protection, protective clothing Protective clothing or hand washing



Orf is an infectious disease of sheep and goats affecting primarily the lips of young animals. The disease also goes by the names "Contagious Ecthyma, Contagious pustular dermatitis, and Sore-Mouth". The virus may occasionally infect humans and is considered a zoonosis. Orf is caused by a poxvirus (genus Parapoxvirus). The virus is highly resistant to drying and may remain infectious in dried scabs for up to 12 years. Animals become infected by direct contact with lesions or mucous membranes of infected animals, or by the transfer of virus by contaminated equipment used on the animals. The disease starts as papules or vesicles (small bumps and blisters) on the skin of the lips, nostrils eyelids, and ears. It may also affect the udder (nursing ewes) or the feet. Eventually the papules and vesicles break open and scab; these are often very sore and may be numerous. As the sores heal the granulation tissue will proliferate and produce masses with a "cauliflower" appearance. The course of the disease is 1-4 weeks with a 2-3 day incubation. Humans become infected with the virus by direct contact with infected sheep or equipment contaminated with body fluids. The disease in humans is usually characterized by a single papular or pustular lesion (small bump/swelling) where the virus enters the skin (e.g. on the hand). The papule usually becomes painful and gradually becomes a firm weeping nodule. Regional lymph nodes may also become swollen. Usually the course of the disease lasts 2-4 weeks following a 3-7 day incubation. More widespread disease may occur as well as severe ocular lesions.

All persons working with infected sheep (the cage or room will be marked) should protect their hands by wearing gloves and washing hands as soon as possible after exposure. All equipment used on sheep should be washed and decontaminated. It should be remembered that gates and pens also may harbor the virus - gloves should be worn at all times working in the animal rooms.

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The information contained in this site is intended as a reference for University of Minnesota investigators, and animal husbandry and veterinary staff. Drug information and dosages are derived from a variety of sources and do not necessarily guarantee safety or efficacy. Information obtained through this site should not be relied upon as professional veterinary advice. Any medications administered or procedures performed on animals should only be performed by or under order of a qualified, licensed veterinarian.