H1N1 is ruled out in death of UC-Davis veterinary hospital worker

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Aug 11, 2009
Davis, Calif. -- The coroner's office put to rest the suspicion that a University of California-Davis veterinary hospital worker died of the H1N1 influenza virus last week.

Yolo County Chief Deputy Coroner Robert LaBrash confirmed today that, while final autopsy findings aren't expected for a few weeks, the UC-Davis large-animal clinic worker who reported flu-like symptoms Aug. 2 before being found dead in her apartment was not infected with H1N1.

The final autopsy report is taking longer than usual because the coroner requested a full toxicology report.

Cases of the H1N1 influenza virus have been reported in Yolo County, where UC-Davis is located. LaBrash says he's seen one H1N1 death this year, a 30-year-old woman who died Aug. 7.

Jennifer Lee Zeka, 40, an administrative assistant, reported achiness and fever Aug. 2 when she phoned in sick, according to Dr. John Madigan, DVM, associate director of UC-Davis' large animal clinic.

After hearing the news of her death and consulting with human medical experts at UC-Davis, Madigan sent a letter to veterinary hospital faculty, staff and students reminding them to follow basic health precautions during the current H1N1 pandemic. The guidelines asking staff and students to stay home and consult a physician if they exhibit flu-like symptoms were already disseminated at the university.

But Zeka's death seemed to awaken a new spirit of compliance, according to Madigan. Within a few hours of receiving the letter, several supervisors sent staff with flu-like symptoms home.

Employees at the UC-Davis Medical Center told Madigan that the county is in the middle of an "unusual summer flu" and that some patients have been infected with H1N1.

"People have said they were grateful to have the information," Madigan says.

Madigan's news of Zeka's death and the possible H1N1 case were posted on UC-Davis' main Web site last week. High call volume since the virus was labeled a pandemic prompted the UC-Davis Medical Center to post information for patients with flu symptoms here.