The recent H1N1 influenza epidemic has raised many questions about how animal viruses move to human populations. One potential route is through veterinarians, who, according to a new report by University of Iowa College of Public Health researchers, are at markedly increased risk of infection with zoonotic pathogens -- the viruses and bacteria that can infect both animals and humans.
While there is no evidence that veterinarians played a direct role in the current H1N1 epidemic, the review found that veterinarians can serve as a "bridging population," spreading pathogens to their families, their communities and the various groups of animals for which they provide care. The paper appears in the May 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (http://avmajournals.avma.org/loi/javma).
While conducting previous occupational research studies, the study's authors, Whitney Baker, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, and Gregory Gray, M.D., University of Iowa professor of epidemiology and director of the University of Iowa Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, observed that veterinarians often have evidence of zoonotic influenza virus infection. To better understand this finding, Baker and Gray conducted a review of medical literature published between 1966 and 2007 and identified 66 journal articles that specifically addressed veterinarians and zoonotic infections.
"Our review of the literature found that veterinarians' risk of zoonotic infections is often higher than that of other occupational groups with extensive exposure to animals, such as farm workers," Baker said. "This is remarkable since veterinarians have professional training in how to protect themselves from zoonotic infections."
The review found veterinarians had an increased risk for various pathogens, including swine influenza, a
|Contact: Hannah Fletcher|
University of Iowa