Assessment of Musculoskeletal Injuries Associated with Palpation, Infection Control Practices, and Zoonotic Disease Risks Among Utah Clinical Veterinarians

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Journal of Agromedicine







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Objectives: Practicing veterinarians are exposed to unique occupational hazards and zoonotic diseases. National studies have highlighted an increase risk to injuries and a lack of veterinary awareness for these hazards. In Utah (and likely other states), reports of acquired zoonoses are sporadic, and underlying risk factors poorly understood. To better clarify occupational risk factors, the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of Utah veterinarians were examined. Methods: A total sample of 809 Utah veterinarians were identified from the 2017 licensure listing provided by the Utah Division of Professional Licensing. These individuals were invited to participate in an internet-based survey to self-report musculoskeletal injuries associated with large animal palpation practices. The relationships between some variables and Precaution awareness (PA) score rankings were examined using logistic regression and odds ratios. Results: Of 809 veterinarians, 223 (28%) responded, with 209 self-identifying as clinical veterinarians. Frequent palpation of large animals (equine or bovine) was performed by 43 (22%) of 197 responding veterinarians. Joint pain or injury was experienced by 29 (67%) of 43 responding veterinarians who frequently palpated large animals (equine or bovine). Animal bites, needle-sticks, and cuts were the most frequently reported injuries within the past year. There were 44 (22%) of 197 respondents who reported having contracted a zoonotic disease. Most of the respondents failed to use appropriate PPE when examining an ill animal or when handling potentially infectious specimens. Clinical veterinarians who have less than 10 years of experience and work in a practice providing clinic-based services were 2.3 and 3.8 times more likely to have low PA rankings, respectively. Conclusion: Our work underscores the importance for continued clinical veterinarian education on occupational risks associated with musculoskeletal injuries, animal bites, needle-sticks, and cuts. The fact that survey veterinarians reported a high level of zoonotic disease infection illustrates the need for education and training on proper PPE use. Further work is needed to understand why precaution awareness scores were low among this sample of participants in this study. Additional follow-up with veterinarians is recommended to assess availability of large animal handling facilities and safety practices to prevent musculoskeletal injuries.