The discovery of bovine tuberculosis (caused by Mycobacterium bovis) in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and other free-ranging Michigan wildlife has made ongoing surveillance for the disease a reality for wildlife professionals. The wide susceptibility of mammals, including humans, to M. bovis led us to be concerned with the potential risks of acquiring tuberculosis that Michigan Department of Natural Resources staff face in their occupational activities. Consequently, we developed a bovine tuberculosis occupational safety program for our staff and volunteer cooperators taking part in disease surveillance. Close similarities between bovine and human tuberculosis allowed occupational safety principles used in human health care to be used as a guide. We produced an occupational safety training document to educate personnel about bovine tuberculosis in humans, evaluate the risk posed by job duties, and make recommendations on risk mitigation. Following implementation, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted field evaluations of the occupational safety program that validated its protectiveness for workers. As wildlife disease surveillance becomes a greater responsibility for management agencies across the United States, we believe the lessons learned in development of the Michigan program can be widely adapted to other areas and potentially to other diseases, and can raise awareness of occupational exposure to zoonotic diseases.
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