This literature review summarized zoonotic infections in veterinarians that were reported in the medical literature between 1966 and November 2007. Both controlled and uncontrolled studies describing zoonotic infections exclusively identified in veterinarians were examined and included in the study. A literature search identified a total of 44 seroepidemiologic studies, and most of these studies highlighted an increased risk for zoonotic infection in veterinary professionals. Other papers included 12 case reports, 3 outbreak investigations, and 7 self-reported surveys. Most studies suggested an increased zoonotic infection risk in veterinarians, and a variety of zoonotic organisms with varied modes of transmission were represented. Veterinarians inconsistently used preventive measures and protective equipment. Therefore, increased exposure as well as lack of prevention may have been associated with increased transmission.

COMMENTARY: This report suggested that veterinarians may serve as sentinels or global markers for zoonotic infection risk in humans. It also emphasized the importance of protective clothing and equipment to prevent zoonotic infections. Infection prevalence in veterinarians may reflect risks to general populations, and could allow for widespread applicability of public health policy and prevention measures. The study also emphasized the unique ability of veterinarians to recognize emerging zoonotic and bioterrorism risks in animal populations; extrapolation of such knowledge should be applied accordingly to human populations.—Indu Mani, DVM, DSc (infectious disease)

A review of published reports regarding zoonotic pathogen infection in veterinarians. Baker WS, Gray GC. JAVMA 234:1271-1278, 2009.