OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURES TO BIOAEROSOL AND ITS LINK WITH RESPIRATORY SYMPTOMS AMONG WORKERS IN COMPANION ANIMAL CLINICS: A CROSS-SECTIONAL STUDY
Background: Evidence showed prolonged bioaerosol exposures in veterinary-related settings is linked to risks of lung function impairment and respiratory problems. This study aims to assess and relate respiratory symptoms of workers in veterinary practices with bioaerosol concentrations and physical indoor air parameters in Klang Valley, Malaysia.
Materials and Methods: Fourteen companion animal clinics were recruited. Questionnaires were distributed to all employees in the clinics. Bioaerosol assessments were performed using double-stage impactors containing agar plates while physical parameters were assessed using real-time instrument. Impacted agar plates were incubated and total bacterial count (TBC) and fungal counts (TFC) were performed. Data were entered into statistical software for analysis.
Result: A total of 84 participants were recruited for this study. The highest prevalence of respiratory symptoms were wheezing and chest tightness (14.3%), followed cough and phlegm (7.1%) while symptoms reported shortly after exposure to animals includes sneezing (50%), stuffed nose (28.6%) and headache (19%). The average (standard deviation) TBC and TFC were 290±114 CFU/m3 and 182±148 CFU/m3, respectively. Several clinics exceeded the recommended references for TBC, TFC and physical indoor air parameters. No significant association between the reported respiratory symptoms with bioaerosol exposures were found.
Conclusion: This study showed that there were companian animal clinics in Klang Valley that had bioaerosol values exceeding existing reference levels. Although no relationship between bioaerosol and ill-health effects were found, exposures exceeding recommended levels needs to be reduced according to the present best practice. Checklist incorporating ventilation requirements as a guide to be used in the setting-up of veterinary practices needs to be developed by authority in Malaysia.
Keywords: Bacteria, fungi, biological hazard, veterinary practitioner, indoor air pollution