Oiled Sea Otter Capture Course

Biological Hazards


By law, an infection control plan must be prepared by every person that handles, stores, uses, processes, or disposes of infectious medical wastes. This infection control plan complies with OSHA requirement, 29 CFR 1910.1030, Blood Borne Pathogens. The plan includes requirements for personal protective equipment, housekeeping, training, and a procedure for reporting exposures.

Biological Hazard

The term biological hazard or bio-hazard is taken to mean any viable infectious agent (etiologic agent) that presents a risk, or a potential risk, to the well being of humans. Each supervisor has identified the specific biological hazard associated with your job, and the supervisor will arrange for your training if necessary.

Medical Wastes/Infectious Wastes

All laboratory waste emanating from animal tissues, blood or blood products or fluids; all cultures of etiologic agents; specimens of animal parts or tissues removed by surgery, autopsy, or necropsy.


Zoonoses are diseases transferable from animals to man. Wildlife carry various bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites, some of which are transmissible to humans. Although there are few diseases known to be transferred from marine mammals to humans, two common diseases are salmonellosis and general bacterial infections due to bites or scratches (i.e., “seal finger”). Salmonellosis may be caused from the accidental ingestion of fecal material from an infected animal and results in abdominal pains followed by severe diarrhea. Bacterial infections of the skin are caused by the exposure of open sores and cuts to bacteria in the animal’s fur, feces, saliva, or food. Both medical conditions should be treated immediately under the supervision of a physician.

Blood-borne pathogens are a concern when working with wildlife. These pathogens include salmonellosis and hepatitis. Although direct transmission from marine mammals to humans is very rare, animal caretakers should be aware of the potential danger. The best prevention is to wear gloves when handling the animals, avoid direct contact with animal blood and other fluids, and wash your hands after handling animals. Animal care staff should wash their hands before eating, at the end of their shift, and after contact with animal feces and urine.

General Procedures

The following procedures must be followed by personnel when in animal care areas and veterinarian laboratories:

  • All supervisors must ensure that their staff is trained in proper work practices, the concept of universal precautions, personal protective equipment, and in proper clean-up and disposal techniques.
  • Eating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm, and handling contact lenses are prohibited in work areas where there is a potential for exposure to any health hazard.
  • Food and drink must not be stored in refrigerators, freezers, or cabinets where blood or other potentially infectious material is stored or in other areas of possible contamination.

In the clinical veterinary laboratory and necropsy laboratory, the following requirements apply:

  • Only authorized responders and visitors are permitted to enter.
  • Drinking fountains must be the sole source of drinking water for humans.
  • Lab coats must be worn whenever there is a possibility that body fluids could splash on skin or clothing.
  • Gloves must be made of appropriate disposable material, usually intact latex or vinyl. They must be used in the following circumstances:
    – When the responder has cuts, abraded skin, chapped hands, dermatitis, or similar conditions.
    – During instrumental examination of the otopharynx, gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract, and genitourinary (G.U.) tract.
    – While handling blood or blood products or other body secretions during routine laboratory procedures.

  • Responders must wash their hands immediately, or as soon as possible, after removal of gloves or other personal protective equipment and after hand contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials.
  • Contaminated laboratory clothing must not be worn in clean areas or outside the building.
  • All procedures involving blood or other potentially infectious agents must be performed in a manner that will minimize splashing, spraying, and aerosolization.
  • Persons who are ill, pregnant, taking drugs that suppress their resistance to disease, or under eighteen years of age should not work directly with wildlife.

Practicing good hygiene, using common sense, and staying healthy will minimize the risk of contacting diseases from wildlife.

Medical Wastes

Medical/infectious waste must be segregated from other waste at the point of origin.

Medical/infectious waste, except for sharps (i.e., razor blades, broken glass, needles, etc.) capable of puncturing or cutting, must be contained in double disposable red bags conspicuously labeled with the words “INFECTIOUS WASTE” and “BIO-HAZARD.”

Used needles or other sharps (razor blades, broken glass, scalpels, etc.) must not be sheared, bent, broken, recapped, or resheathed.

Infectious sharps must be contained for disposal in leakproof, rigid puncture-resistant containers.

Floors, laboratory benches, and other surfaces in buildings where infectious agents are handled must be disinfected with a suitable germicide, such as 1:9 solution of sodium hypochlorite solution (household bleach) as often as necessary as determined by the supervisor.

Stock solutions of suitable disinfectants must be maintained in each laboratory.