Occupational exposure to Q-fever was assessed at the University of Colorado Medical School (SIC-8221) in Denver, Colorado, from September 22 to 24, 1980. Sheep, the suspected carrier of the causative agent Coxiella-burneti, (C-burneti), were used for research. Only the animal handlers were subject to medical surveillance. Handlers received preemployment physicals and had available voluntary serum banking and pre-exposure rabies tests. Primate colony workers had an annual physical and tuberculin tests every other year. Several potential problems existed in the supply and exhaust ventilation system. No samples from fan filters contained C-burneti organisms. Poor work practices were noted, including smoking, open doors in biohazard areas, and carelessness in dress. There were no documented plans for emergencies or laboratory accidents. The authors conclude that the outbreak of Q- fever is related to the manner of transporting sheep through the buildings, faulty ventilation in the holding suite, and poor work practices among research personnel. The authors recommend eight safeguards against biological hazards, including establishment of criteria for purchased animal quality, improved husbandry among suppliers, better monitoring of animals, worker precautions in handling animals or soiled bedding, a medical surveillance program for all personnel exposed to animals or biological hazards, safety orientation and training for all workers, establishment of emergency and accident procedures, and assumption of infection in all animals subjected to surgery or necropsies.
NIOSH, Industrial Hygiene Section, Industry-wide Studies Branch, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, Cincinnati, Ohio, 12 pages, 5 references