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UC Davis death prompts warning of Type A H1N1 pandemic flu

Administrative assistant complained of flu-like symptoms prior to death

August 10, 2009
By Jennifer Fiala

An administrative assistant working in the University of California, Davis' Large Animal Clinic was found dead in her apartment on Aug. 3, and an official with the DVM program has issued a precautionary warning to employees and students concerning Type A H1N1 pandemic flu. 

Laboratory tests have yet to confirm whether 40-year-old Jennifer Lee Zeka contracted the H1N1 virus; the Yolo County Coroner is investigating the cause of death, a UC Davis news release says. 

Dr. John Madigan, professor in the veterinary school's Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, issued a letter last Tuesday to faculty, staff and students, apart from official campus response, warning them that Zeka had complained of flu-like symptoms prior to her death. He asked that they follow the same basic health precautions that they would during the current H1N1 pandemic, and stay home if they feel sick.  

Madigan could not be reached.

His alert doesn't mean there's a confirmed case of H1N1 infection, says UC spokeswoman Claudia Morain. "We're seeing cases of flu on a regular basis," she says. Reportedly, other staff in the large animal clinic taken sick time recently. 

Facilities tied to UC Davis' veterinary medical program are operating as normal, Morain adds. 

========  Follow-up: ===========

Tests for Type A H1N1 pandemic flu were NEGATIVE;
the cause of death in this case are still pending.


Editor's note: This article has been edited to omit references to swine flu, a term that is not accepted by leaders in veterinary medicine and public health. Type A H1N1 virus contains genetic components of several influenza strains, including two found in swine. To date, the new H1N1 virus has not been isolated in animals in the United States and is not known to spread from swine to humans. "The bottom line is pork is safe to eat," says Dr. Tom Burkgren, head of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. 

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.


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