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WORKING SAFELY WITH ANIMALS
Occupational Health and Safety for Staff with Substantial Contact with RABBITS
| Recommended Preventive Measures | Response to Injury | Infectious Diseases | Allergies |
Rabbits are usually docile animals that are easy to handle and pose few health risks to laboratory personnel and animal care staff. The primary concern when working with rabbits is developing allergies. Staff assigned to rabbit areas should be trained in handling techniques and protective clothing requirements prior to beginning hands-on work.

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RECOMMENDED PREVENTIVE MEASURES

  • Only trained personnel should handle rabbits. Handling and restraint training can be scheduled through LARC;
  • Gloves and long sleeved apparel should be worn at all times when working with rabbits;
  • Wash hands after handling animals;
  • When seeking medical advice for any illness, inform your physician that you work with rabbits.

To reduce the risk of exposure to allergens when rabbits are transported to or used in laboratories, staff are advised to adhere to the following practices:

  • Dust masks should be worn at all times when working with rabbits; whenever there is a risk of aerosol transmission of a zoonotic agent, approved respirator masks (e.g., Type N95 by 3M company) should be worn instead of dust masks;
  • Minimize wearing protective clothing such as lab coats outside of animal areas and laboratories;
  • Remove transport carriers from labs/offices/public areas;
  • Use disposable supplies whenever possible;
  • Sanitize lab/surgical work areas after animal work.

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RESPONSE TO INJURY

Rabbits may scratch handlers, particularly when they are improperly restrained. Bites are rare and usually minor.

  1. Wash any injured site with soap and water for at least 15 minutes;
  2. Control bleeding by applying direct pressure with a sterile gauze or bandage;
  3. Cover wound with clean bandage (do not apply ointment or spray);
  4. Seek advice from emergency room physician.

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INFECTIOUS DISEASES

Pasteurella multocida: Pasteurella multocida is a serious pathogen of rabbits and has been associated with infected bites and scratches sustained from rabbits.

Cryptosporidium: Protozoal organism that is common in mammals, particularly younger animals.

  • Reservoir/source of infection: Many mammals;
  • Transmission: Fecal/oral;
  • Disease in people: Self-limiting diarrhea except in immune compromised people where it can be quite severe. No treatment.

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ALLERGIES

Allergies to rabbit fur and dander are well documented. A major glycoprotein allergen has been described that appears to occur in the fur of rabbits, and minor allergenic components found in rabbit saliva and urine have been identified.