Health status may be defined as the actual status of an individual animal concerning its clinical, pathological, and physiological appearance. In more popular terms, the health status tells whether the animal is ill or not, but as no animal can be said to be only ill or healthy, health may be regarded more quantitatively than qualitatively. Infections, the environment, and genetic disorders may reduce the health of the animals and counteract the aim of receiving reproducible results in groups of animals with a low variation. Infections impose a current risk of irreversible health reductions in a high number of animals and, therefore, have to be dealt with on a daily basis. Therefore, many laboratory animal scientists automatically think of infection when hearing the term health, and laboratory animal health is often defined as being the same as laboratory animal microbiology. Environment and genetics are obviously equally important, but they have to be dealt with in the design of facilities, the optimal running of these, and the breeding procedures; therefore, the approaches are somewhat different. Environment and genetics are discussed elsewhere in this book. In this chapter, infections and the influence of microorganisms on experiments are discussed, as well as the precautions needed to reduce this impact.

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