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WORKING SAFELY WITH ANIMALS
Occupational Health and Safety for Staff with Substantial Contact with GUINEA PIGS
| Recommended Preventive Measures | Response to Injury | Allergies |

Guinea pigs are docile rodents that rarely, if ever, inflict injuries. There are no significant zoonotic diseases associated with guinea pigs. The major disease potential of guinea pigs is allergy. However, many individuals working with guinea pigs develop serious symptoms related to allergic responses. Strict attention should be paid to the protective clothing recommendations discussed below.

RECOMMENDED PREVENTIVE MEASURES

  • Whenever possible, assign work involving direct animal contact to personnel without pre-existing allergies or respiratory conditions;
  • Dust masks, gloves and long sleeved apparel should be worn at all times when working with guinea pigs; whenever there is a risk of aerosol transmission of an infectious agent, approved respirator masks (e.g., Type N95 by 3M company) should be worn instead of dust masks;
  • Wash hands after handling animals;
  • When seeking medical advice for any illness, inform your physician that you work with guinea pigs.

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

  • Perform procedures in a laminar flow hood whenever possible;
  • Do not wear protective clothing such as lab coats outside of animal areas and laboratories;
  • Keep transport carriers out of labs/offices/public areas;
  • Use disposable supplies whenever possible;
  • Sanitize lab/surgical areas after animal work.

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RESPONSE TO INJURY

Guinea Pigs are docile animals. Bites and scratches are rare. If injury does occur:

  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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ALLERGIES

Allergies to guinea pigs are common. Exposure to guinea pigs has frequently been associated with occupational asthma. About 10% of allergen activity is found on particles small enough to penetrate into the lower respiratory tract. Guinea pig urine appears to be the major source of allergen. Other allergenic components are found in dander, fur and saliva.