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Keywords:

  • nonhuman primate;
  • primatologist;
  • cross-species disease transmission;
  • field research;
  • disease risk;
  • laboratory primates

Humans and nonhuman primates (NHP) interact in a variety of contexts. The frequency, duration, and intensity of interspecies interaction influence the likelihood that contact results in cross-species transmission of infectious agents. In this study, we present results of a cross-sectional survey of attendees at a national conference of primatologists, characterizing their occupational exposures to NHP. Of 116 individuals who participated in the study, 68.1% reported having worked with NHP in a field setting, 68.1% in a laboratory setting, and 24.1% at a zoo or animal sanctuary. Most subjects (N=98, 84.5%) reported having worked with multiple NHP taxa, including 46 (39.7%) who had worked with more than five distinct taxa. Sixty-nine subjects (59.5%) recalled having been scratched by a NHP and 48 (41.1%) had been bitten; 32 subjects reporting being bitten more than once. Eleven subjects (9.5%) reported having been injured by a needle containing NHP tissue or body fluids. We conclude that primatologists are at high risk for exposure to NHP-borne infectious agents. Furthermore, primatologists' varied occupational activities often bring them into contact with multiple NHP species in diverse contexts and geographic areas, over extended periods of time, making them a unique population with respect to zoonotic and anthropozoonotic disease risk. Am. J. Primatol. 74:543–550, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.