Animal Use Safety Data: Rodents

Working Safely With Rodents


Zoonosis: A disease that can be transmitted from animal to human. This brochure provides basic information regarding zoonotic risk and who can be contacted for further assistance.

This information is provided to assist you in understanding the potential occupational hazards associated with the use of rodents and the need in some instances to take precautions to minimize the potential for animal-to-human zoonotic disease. Also of concern is possible disease transmission from human to animal. This is most acute when working with potentially immunocompromised rodents, such as SCID-Hu mice.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Gloves, masks and a laboratory coat (or other dedicated protective clothing such as a scrub suit) should be worn when working with rodents. In some cases protective eye wear is also indicated. Do not eat, drink, or apply cosmetics while working in an animal use area, and always wash your hands after handling rodents. Remember that unfixed tissues, blood, serum, urine and other materials derived from rodents may also pose a risk. Bedding, hair and fur may also exacerbate allergies.

Contact Enterprise Risk Management at 593-2237 for any concerns or questions you have about working with rodents or any vertebrate animal and occupational risks. Help with training personnel in specific work practices to minimize risk can be obtained by contacting the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) at 593-3344.

BE ADVISED: All personnel working with dogs are eligible to enroll in the Occupational Health Program (OHP). Contact Enterprise Risk Management at 593-2237 for additional information.

If you work with rodents:

Rodents raised in "clean" facilities are considered relatively free of zoonotic diseases unless they have been experimentally or accidentally infected with a human pathogen. All use of pathogenic organisms must be approved by the Administrative Panel on Biosafety (APB). An APB representative can help you decide on precautions to safeguard your health.

Note: those working with rodents should also be aware of possible allergic reactions. These allergic reactions are often associated with cage cleaning due to the dust hazards of bedding and surface contact with rodent urine proteins.

Wild rodents pose additional concerns. Wild-caught animals may act as carriers for such viruses as Hantavirus and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) depending on where they were captured. Additionally, each rodent species may harbor their own range of bacterial diseases, such as tularemia and plague. These animals may also, have biting insect vectors which can act as a potential carrier of disease (mouse to human transmission).

The following links describe some of the potential illnesses associated with rodents and may be found on-line:

Bites or scratches involving these rodents or injuries from objects contaminated with body fluids from rodents require immediate first aid and medical attention.

Notify your supervisor!

For immediate life threatening injuries contact the University Police Department at 593-2611 or dial 911.

This page was last updated on: August 11, 2017