The School of Veterinary Medicine is providing animal-related health information to answer questions from the media and other members of the public about the flu strain known as H1N1. Among the topics are general questions about zoonotic diseases, biosecurity for 4-H projects, and concerns about farm animals and companion species.
How do veterinarians diagnose flu in farm animals?
Immunologists and other experts at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System have in place surveillance, detection and diagnostic programs for various strains of influenza in animals in California. The system, with five branches in California, has developed emergency and disaster preparedness and response plans for all aspects of CAHFS operations to ensure system-wide ability to respond cohesively, rapidly and flexibly while maintaining highest quality laboratory services in the event of a larger animal health emergency. The laboratory is an active member of both the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (USDA) and the Laboratory Response Network (CDC), which support national diagnostic capacity and capability.
Dr. Sharon Hietala stated April 30, "We have turned a corner nationally in the recognition that this is not an animal disease. Our next step from the veterinary community will be to provide surveillance to demonstrate to the public and our trade partners that we are confident in that assessment. The research community is already being involved in assessing potential impacts of this novel virus on animal populations, control measures, vaccine efficacy, etc.”
Risks and recommendations regarding 4-H animals
As backyard flocks and herds may carry disease and 4-H fairs or exhibitions represent potential bio-security risks, Cooperative Extension specialist Martin Smith has developed and implemented education outreach efforts that include practical biosafety strategies for 4-H. Smith is the principal author of the "Understanding and Applying Bio-Security in 4-H Animal Science" curriculum for 4-H. He held numerous workshops on bio-security and animal traceability in 4-H and completed research on bio-security risks and recommendations in the California 4-H Youth Development Program.
Vaccine research in mice
Nicole Baumgarth, an associate professor and veterinarian at the Center for Comparative Medicine, is a cellular immunologist who studies immunity to viruses, particularly influenza viruses, in mice. Her work could lead to novel designs for influenza vaccines. Her research uses infectious-disease models to identify and characterize the basic mechanisms that regulate immune responses. She is particularly interested in a group of cells, known as "B cells," that produce a powerful immune defense response against influenza in mice.
What about pets?
Jane Sykes, a clinical infectious disease expert at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, says, "Although some influenza viruses can infect dogs and cats, currently evidence is lacking that supports the ability of swine influenza virus to infect companion animals such as dogs and cats."