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Diagnostic Laboratory Confirms H1N1 in California Cheetah

December 3, 2009

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School faculty at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System have confirmed that a captive cheetah from California tested positive on preliminary tests for the pandemic H1N1 virus. 

This is the first non-domestic cat to be diagnosed with the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus.  Dr. Beate Crossley, a virologist, made the diagnosis. The diagnosis was made using a nasal swab taken from the cheetah where it lives and sending the specimen to the laboratory in Davis at the School of Veterinary Medicine.

The animal has since recovered, and animals and people that have been in contact with the cheetah show no symptoms of the disease.

It is not known how the cheetah contracted the virus.

The California Animal Health and Food Safety laboratory, the state's diagnostic laboratory system run by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is now working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Department of Agriculture, and California Department of Public Health to sequence the virus and carry out surveillance for the virus.

The American Veterinary Medical Association posts regular updates about animals that contract the H1N1 virus. The association described the cheetah case December 1 based on a report from the USDA

Listen to a December 9 interview on Capital Public Radio Sacramento about H1N1 in the cheetah, with remarks from the animal's owner and quotes from Professor Sharon Hietala of the animal health laboratory.

Professor Hietala reports that scientists are interested in the finding because such unusual cases contribute to our overall understanding of viruses and their transmission.




The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, with branches in Davis, Turlock, Tulare and San Bernardino, provides diagnostic services to clients throughout the state.

School of Veterinary Medicine faculty members based in the laboratory apply their expertise in pathology, virology, toxicology and other disciplines in support of: 

• Livestock and poultry disease control

• Enhancement of livestock and poultry health management

• Ensuring the safety of foods of animal origin

• Protection from diseases common to animals and humans

• Equine health and performance

Laboratory personnel also routinely monitor for certain diseases, develop faster, more accurate testing methods, and provide advanced training in veterinary specialties.