General Biosecurity Guidelines for Zoos
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2010

Donald L. Janssen1, DVM, DACZM; Bruce A. Rideout2, DVM, PhD, DACVP

1San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, Escondido, CA, USA; 2Wildlife Disease Laboratories, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego, CA, USA


This purpose of this poster is to provide an approach to biosecurity in a zoo for preventing and managing infectious diseases that could threaten the health of the animal collections, employees, guests, and others on or using the zoo facilities. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the word “biosecurity” is defined as those precautions taken to minimize the risk of introducing an infectious disease into an animal population.8 We use the term to refer to all programs of infection control within a zoo facility. Several publications are available to help in formulating general biosecurity measures in zoos.1-7

These general guidelines can be used by veterinarians in zoos to set up procedures for staff, volunteers, and contractors that work with and around animals in zoo facilities. Biosecurity procedures for specific diseases or circumstances can be addressed separately (e.g., primate safety guidelines, bat handling guidelines, reptile handling guidelines, highly pathogenic avian influenza, and exotic Newcastle disease,6 etc.).

Categories of biosecurity measures can include those for facilities, animal care staff, collection animals, animal feed, wild and feral animals, routine disease surveillance, biosecurity communications and education, employee preventive and occupational health care, and enhanced biosecurity and control measures in the event of a foreign animal disease in the region.

A group of senior zoo staff can be assigned to address infectious disease and zoonosis threats. The group can draft, approve, and periodically review biosecurity guidelines and convene as needed to address specific infectious disease situations.


The authors acknowledge the collaborative contributions that were provided by the Collection Health and Curatorial Staff of the Zoological Society of San Diego in the creation of these guidelines.

Literature Cited

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guideline for hand hygiene in health-care settings: recommendations of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee and the HICPAC/SHEA/APIC/IDSA Hand Hygiene Task Force. MMWR. 2002;51(No. RR-16).

2.  Compendium of measures to prevent disease associated with animals in public settings, 2009: National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc. (NASPHV). MMWR. Recommendations and reports: morbidity and mortality weekly report. Recommendations and reports/Centers for Disease Control. 2009;58(RR-5):1–21. Available at:

3.  Dvorak G. Disinfection 101. Ames, IA: Center for Food Security and Public Health, Iowa State University; 2005:22. Available at: (VIN editor: The link was not accessible as of 12-31-20.)

4.  Elchos BL, Scheftel JM, Cherry B, et al. Compendium of veterinary standard precautions for zoonotic disease prevention in veterinary personnel. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2008;233(3):415–32. Available at:

5.  Miller, RE. AZA Policy for Animal Contact with the General Public. 1997. Adopted by the AZA Board of Directors 1997, Incorporated into the Accreditation Guidelines in 1998. Available at: Accessed Apr 1, 2010. (VIN editor: The link was not accessible as of 12-31-20.)

6.  Janssen DL, Sutherland-Smith M, Papendick R, et al. Exotic Newcastle disease outbreak in Southern California: biosecurity measures for prevention in zoo collections. In: 2003 Proceedings of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians; 2003:107–110.

7.  Janssen DL, Bicknese B, Burns R, Papendick R, Sutherland-Smith M, Lamberski N, et al. Guidelines for managing cases diagnosed with a zoonotic disease agent. In: 2009 Proceedings AAZV/AAWV Joint Conference:49–50.

8.  USDA. Avian Influenza Glossary of Terms. Retrieved May 7, 2010 from:!ut/p/c4/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os_gAC9-wMJ8QY0MDpxBDA09nXw9DFxcXQ-cAA_2CbEdFAEUOjoE!/?parentnav=AVIAN_INFLUENZA&navid=AI_GLOSSARY&navtype=RT. (VIN editor: The link was not accessible as of 12-31-20.)


Speaker Information
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Donald L. Janssen, DVM, DACZM
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park
Escondido, CA, USA

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