Zoonotic Disease Survey Addresses Potentially Dangerous Health Risks

Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans, and there are some dangerous ones in our parks. The NPS Zoonotic Disease Survey currently underway will help the Park Service improve safety protocols for employees at risk. If you want to participate, you’ll need to hurry.

Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans. Park employees and visitors can encounter some very dangerous ones in the national parks. A zoonotic disease survey currently underway will help the Park Service improve safety protocols.

Several park employee deaths in recent years have underscored the need to develop safer work practices for field biologists and others who may be exposed to zoonotic diseases in the course of their work. Jerry O’Neal, then Deputy Superintendent of Glacier National Park, died in March 2004 after contracting hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) during the performance of his duties. Eric York, a wildlife biologist at Grand Canyon National Park, died in November 2007 after contracting pneumonic plague from an infected mountain lion.

The NPS Zoonotic Disease Survey, a service-wide, web-based survey on zoonotic diseases and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the workplace, is being conducted by the NPS Office of Public Health in cooperation with the Biological Resource Management and Risk Management Divisions. The survey, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete, is currently available at this site as well as the homepage of the NPS Office of Public Health. (The latter site also offers policies and guidelines for dealing with zoonotic disease risks.)

This survey is not restricted to wildlife biologists, biological technicians, and other wildlife resource management staff. All NPS employees (whether permanent, term, or seasonal) who handle and/or manage wildlife are eligible.

If you want to participate in this survey, you'll need to hurry. The survey will be accessible only until Friday, June 26th.

Questions about the survey should be directed to Commander David Wong, MD, medical epidemiologist, Office of Public Health, at or 505-248-7806.