Employee Health at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Cost/Benefit Analysis for an Annual Screening Program
While the health of the collection is the first priority of zoo veterinarians, the health of employees working with these animals is certainly an additional topic of great importance. Not only are employees susceptible to transfer of zoonotic disease from collection animals, but employees are also a possible route of introduction of anthroponoses to the collection.1 The risks of both of the possibilities may be mitigated by an effective employee health screening program.
At the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, the annual Employee Health Fair comprises the following screening tests:
1. Intradermal tuberculin testing
2. Fecal submission for parasitology and enteric culture
3. Rabies vaccination and biannual titer
4. Serum banking
5. Recommendation to maintain appropriate vaccinations, especially influenza and tetanus
Institutional concerns for instating such a program not already in effect may include financial, administrative, and perceptual. Monetary costs for such a program can be significant. Collaboration with governmental public health, as opposed to private occupational health companies, may provide significant cost savings. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance and staff time commitment to organization of the event are substantial administrative concerns, but can be addressed via HIPAA training and creating a streamlined event preparation outline. Staff may be hesitant initially to participate in such a program, but with early education on the program’s purpose, we have received excellent staff compliance with minimal complaints at our institution. In short, with community networking, careful planning, and forthright discussion with staff, such a program may be achievable by a large number of zoos and aquaria.
1. Forsyth, M.B., A.J. Morris, D.A. Sinclair, and C.P. Pritchard. 2012. Investigation of zoonotic infections among Auckland Zoo staff: 1991–2010. Zoonoses Public Health. 59:561–567.