Comments & suggestions  should be directed to jroese@lssu.edu Visit my website Occupational Health Concerns Development of allergies to species of animals used in research, especially rodents and rabbits, is one of the most common problems encountered by both animal care workers and investigators. While the most common manifestations of this sensitivity are nasal symptoms, itchy eyes, and rashes, it is estimated that up to 10% of chronically exposed individuals will develop asthma which can be life-threatening.  The majority of allergies induced by rats are due to a protein found in the urine.  This protein can become airborne, and individuals that are extremely sensitive can be adversely affected by simply walking into a room where rats are housed.  The use of gloves, laboratory coats, and other protective clothing helps to minimize exposure and prevent the development of allergies. The use of microisolator cage tops also helps to minimize the amount of protein that can be aerosolized.  Wash well with soap after working with the rats. Anaphylaxis may occur in extremely allergic individuals if they are bitten by a rat or receive a puncture wound from a used needle that has rat proteins on it. Development of allergies should be reported to your supervisor and the LSSU Health Center. Anyone bitten by a rat should report the injury immediately to the LSSU Health Center (635- 2110).  A bite from a rat may result in a puncture wound, and any bite wound should be cleaned thoroughly to prevent bacterial infections.  A current tetanus immunization is recommended for anyone working with rats, as such injuries may provide entry for the tetanus bacterium. Rat bite fever or “Haverhill fever” is a disease caused by either of two bacteria. Streptobacillus moniliformis or Spirillium minus.  Both organisms are carried asymptomatically in the nasopharynx of rats and are considered to be commensal bacteria.  An acute febrile (flu-like) illness is induced in infected humans with headache, malaise, myalgia, chills, joint pain, and anhritis.  S. moniliformis can also be transmitted by aerosols or fomites.  In addition, infection with S. minus may result in inflammation at the site of the bite as well as lymphadenopathy.  Anyone experiencing these symptoms after a rat bite should consult a physician immediately. Transmission of infectious diseases from laboratory rats to man is rare today because of the care used in rearing and housing these animals, however, the introduction of wild-caught rodents or laboratory rats from questionable sources into a facility may provide the potential for transmission of zoonotic diseases.  Diseases which may be readily transmitted from rats to humans include salmonellosis, leptospirosis, cestodiasis (rodent tapeworms) and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (Hantaan virus).  Of special concern to those handling wild rats in the southwest is the possible transmission of bubonic plague which is carried by the rat flea.  Wild rodents should never be handled without gloves and protective clothing.