Infectious Diseases

Most zoonotic diseases in veterinarians are self-diagnosed and treated. See Chapters 27 and 29 for a more extensive discussion of the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases. Nonzoonotic diseases in veterinarians include coccidioidomycosis, histoplasmosis, malaria, and other diseases common to areas where they work (see Chapter 28). In addition, veterinarians are at risk for infections from mishandled biological material in laboratories.

A survey of 88 veterinarians employed at a faculty of veterinary science found that 63.6% of veterinarians interviewed had suffered from a zoonotic disease. Veterinarians predominantly involved in farm animal practice were three times more likely to have contracted a zoonotic disease than those working in other veterinary fields. Fifty-six percent of disease incidents were initially diagnosed by the veterinarians themselves. Fifty-three percent of incidents required treatment by a medical practitioner, but the majority (61%) of incidents did not require absence from work. The incidence density rate for contracting a zoonotic disease was 0.06 per person year of exposure. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis estimated that the probability of having contracted a zoonotic disease was 50% after 11 years in practice. The risk of contracting a zoonotic disease appeared to be higher early in practice, and the most common mode of transmission was by direct contact (8).

Another risk to agriculture and the veterinary profession is the possibility of veterinarians acting as carriers of zoonotic illness and infecting herds that they may be examining or treating. Although the spread of zoonotic infections from humans to animals is rare, it does occur; rapid treatment and monitoring of veterinarians for infection may be necessary to protect herds (9).

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