June 15, 2006


 AVMA GHLIT continues commitment to wellness


Every year, hundreds of attendees at the AVMA Annual Convention take advantage of the health screenings offered at the Wellness Center, sponsored by the AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust. This year, the AVMA GHLIT will also provide the opportunity for veterinarians to participate in the Seroepidemiologic and Occupational Risk Survey for Leptospira. The survey will be the first national study to assess seroprevalence of infection in veterinarians for Leptospira and identify work practices that may reduce the risks of occupational hazards.

Expectations are high for a record turnout at the 143rd annual convention, taking place July 15-19 in Honolulu. The AVMA GHILT will again extend an invitation to AVMA members and their spouses, and Student AVMA members and their spouses to participate in the Wellness Center screenings. All veterinarians who participate at the center may be eligible to take part in the Leptospira study. Participation in the study is voluntary, and information will be provided at the center.

Although the goal of the Leptospira study is to enlist the participation of at least 165 veterinarians to ensure statistical integrity, the goal of the Wellness Center is to provide important services to as many members and spouses as possible. During the 2005 convention in Minneapolis, 1,177 individuals took advantage of the services being provided—a 23 percent increase over the previous year's count of 959 individuals. In addition to the general blood profiles, 521 prostate-specific antigen tests were provided in 2005, compared with 162 PSA tests in 2004; and 626 hemoglobin tests were provided in 2005, compared with 248 tests in 2004. At the 2005 convention, 705 rabies titers were measured, compared with 522 rabies titers measured in 2004.

The AVMA GHLIT sponsors the annual Wellness Center as part of the Trust's longstanding, ongoing commitment to preventive care and health screenings. The blood chemistry and lipid tests, PSA tests, and hemoglobin tests are provided at no cost. The rabies titers require a nominal fee of $10. The Leptospira test will be provided at no charge.

In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AVMA conducted a survey of 3,112 veterinarians about their use of infection control practices in clinical work and their perceived risk for zoonotic diseases. The survey revealed that 34 percent of the participating veterinarians were concerned about leptospirosis. However, according to the study abstract, there is little documentation concerning the incidence and prevalence of leptospirosis among U.S. veterinarians, despite the concern and known risk.

Infection among humans ranges from subclinical to mild, influenza like illness to severe multisystemic and hepatic disease. Some of the more serious manifestations of the infection may include meningitis/meningoencephalitis or pulmonary hemorrhage with respiratory failure. Mild infections may also lead to future chronic disease including chronic fatigue, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and eye infections. Because the disease may be misclassified and diagnosis is difficult to confirm, mortality rates are unclear. Fatalities are estimated to range from less than 5 percent to 30 percent in various parts of the world, according to the study abstract.

The blood sample provided by participants at the Wellness Center will be used to assess the seroprevalence of infection. To identify risk factors, participants will also be asked to complete a survey that collects demographic information, type of practice, recent exposures, unintentional vaccination, and other needlestick injuries, along with past illness and injury information.

The study is being spearheaded by the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Co-investigators include doctors from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine; Georgia Department of Human Resources' Division of Public Health; and Georgia Department of Agriculture.

In addition to the important results that will be obtained from the Leptospira study, the information gathered should expand the understanding of the causes of zoonoses among veterinarians in the United States and allow for future study of emerging zoonotic illnesses. The information will also assist with the design of appropriate interventions and work behavior modification studies, which could ultimately support the AVMA GHLIT's goal of improving the health of veterinarians.

Being proactive about one's health to lead a long, healthy, and active life provides immeasurable value to each veterinarian's personal life, and can foster a sense of security among staff and clients. The AVMA GHLIT looks forward to seeing veterinarians, students, and spouses in Honolulu this July.