Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

There are approximately 40 potential zoonoses in the UK and approximately 300,000 people in a variety of occupations are potentially exposed. HSE funded research in a farming population has shown high prevalence of antibodies to:

  • coxiella (which causes Q fever),
  • chlamydia (which causes psittacosis/ovine chlamydiosis) and
  • toxoplasma (which causes toxoplasmosis).

The numbers of infections per year were also quite high for some diseases; 2% per year for orf and 4% for ringworm, suggesting about 4,300 and 12,500 cases annually. Although most of these infections are mild and self-limiting, there is increasing evidence some acute infections may cause long term health effects. HSE has carried out a short project reviewing the potential associations between biological agents of occupational significance and chronic ill health.

HSE has produced guidance aimed at agricultural workers, which outlines the duties under COSHH and the relatively simple control measures which may be required - such as hand washing. The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens has produced specific guidance for those working with animals in laboratories entitled 'Working safely with research animals: Management of infection risks'.

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Updated 2022-05-13