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UC Davis Experts: H1N1 (swine) flu experts

April 28, 2009

These UC Davis faculty members have expertise on topics related to the "swine flu" (now called influenza A H1N1) outbreak, infectious diseases, animal health, economics and the history of epidemics.

Public health and preventing flu spread

Marc Schenker, a professor of public health and medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine, is an expert in respiratory disease, general public health and global health. He is able to talk about public health recommendations for mitigating the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases within a community. Contact: UC Davis Health System News Service, (530) 734-9040.

Swine flu effects on world commodity markets

Colin Carter, professor of agricultural and resource economics and director of the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, can discuss how concerns regarding the flu outbreak have impacted commodity markets. This would include markets such as corn, other foods, and the livestock markets, which are affected by worries about the future production of pork and related trade embargoes. Contact: Colin Carter, Agricultural and Resource Economics, cell (530) 304-7603, colin@primal.ucdavis.edu.

Investor reactions to flu outbreak

Finance professor Brad Barber in the UC Davis Graduate School of Management can comment on how investors react to a serious infectious disease outbreak and to other troubling news. He has published widely on the psychology of investing. Contact: Brad Barber, Graduate School of Management, (530) 752-0512, bmbarber@ucdavis.edu.

Bio-security for young 4-H livestock raisers

Martin Smith, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist, can talk about proactive steps that the university has taken over the past five years regarding livestock bio-security measures associated with the California 4-H Youth Development Program. While the cases of "swine flu" reported in the U.S. this year appear to be caused by transmission of viruses from person to person, Smith notes that backyard flocks and herds serve as potential carriers of disease and that fairs and exhibitions where 4-H youths show animals represent potential bio-security risks. For that reason, UC’s Agriculture and Natural Resources division has developed and implemented education outreach efforts that include practical biosafety strategies for 4-H. Smith was the principal author of the "Understanding and Applying Bio-Security in 4-H Animal Science" curriculum for 4-H, has held numerous workshops and listening sessions on bio-security and animal traceability in 4-H around California, and has done research on bio-security risks in 4-H. Contact: Martin Smith, Veterinary Medicine Extension, (530) 752-6894 or (530) 219-8907, mhsmith@ucdavis.edu.

Influenza and infectious disease preparedness

Christian Sandrock, a physician and an expert in infectious diseases and pulmonary and critical care medicine at the UC Davis Medical Center, can talk about the different types of influenza, how it spreads, what can be done to treat it and prevent its spread, and what the public should do. Sandrock, who also is a deputy health officer for Yolo County, specializes in disaster preparedness, emerging infectious diseases, terrorism and other threats to public health. As medical director of the California Preparedness Education Network, he develops educational materials, primarily for providers in rural, border, inner-city and underserved areas of the state. He was medical director of the Hospital Bioterrorism Preparedness Program for the state of California and currently, as medical adviser to the state Emergency Medical Services Authority, he contributes his expertise to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hospital Bioterrorism Preparedness Program, and many other Homeland Security projects. He is working with the California Department of Health Services and the Emergency Medical Services Authority in pandemic influenza and other infectious disease outbreak planning, disease surveillance and hospital infection-control preparedness. Contact: UC Davis Health System News Service, (916) 734-9040.

Influenza research in mice and vaccines

Nicole Baumgarth, an associate professor and veterinarian at UC Davis' Center for Comparative Medicine, can talk about the different types of influenza viruses, how they spread and how changes in the virus can cause disease epidemics, and about vaccines for influenza. Baumgarth 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. Contact: Nicole Baumgarth, Center for Comparative Medicine, (530) 754-5813, nbaumgarth@ucdavis.edu.

Preventing spread of infectious diseases

Marsha Koopman, the Epidemiology/Infection Control nurse for UC Davis Health System, is available to talk about the spread of influenza and other communicable diseases. She regularly presents educational topics at local, state, national and international conferences, and publishes articles in professional journals. She regularly serves as an expert witness for occupational exposure to communicable diseases. Contact: UC Davis Health System News Service, (530) 734-9040.

Diagnosing influenza viruses in animals

Sharon Hietala, a professor at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, headquartered at UC Davis, is an expert in clinical immunology and diagnostic techniques for infectious diseases in animals. She can discuss the various strains of influenza and the influenza surveillance, detection and diagnostic programs for animals in California. Contact: Sharon Hietala, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, (530) 752-4739, skhietala@ucdavis.edu.

Social and economic impacts

Adela de la Torre, professor and chair of the Chicana/o Studies Program, can discuss potential social and economic impacts of the influenza outbreak. An economist, de la Torre is the author of "Sana, Sana: Mexican Americans and Health" and "Moving From the Margins: A Chicana’s View of Public Policy." She studies health-care access and finance issues that affect the Latino community as well as border health issues. From 1996 to 2002, de la Torre was director of the Mexican American Studies and Research Center at the University of Arizona, where she developed and directed the Border Academy, a summer institute that explored issues unique to the U.S.-Mexico border. More information on de la Torre is available at http://chi.ucdavis.edu/adelacv.html. Contact: Adela de la Torre (fluent in Spanish), Chicana/o Studies, (530) 752-3904, adelatorre@ucdavis.edu.

The history of epidemics

UC Davis historian Catherine Kudlick can talk about how people have responded to epidemics in the past, looking at politics, social interactions, etc. Kudlick says that the very word "epidemic" itself invites people to jump to exaggerated conclusions. At the same time, she believes it is just a matter of time before a new strain of influenza arrives -- such as swine or bird flu -- that will spread very quickly and have important social and political consequences. She wrote "Cholera in Post-Revolutionary Paris: A Cultural History," which talked about how the Europeans responded to a major cholera epidemic in the early 19th century. Contact: Catherine Kudlick, History, (530) 752-1635, cjkudlick@ucdavis.edu.

Interpreting the data

Christiana Drake, a professor of statistics, specializes in biostatistics and epidemiology. Her areas of expertise include designing research studies to ensure that the appropriate data are collected and analyzing and interpreting data obtained from complex studies. Drake can help reporters interpret data — and their significance — that are presented during the H1N1 outbreak and comment on whether the available statistics and data support the conclusions at hand. Contact: Chris Drake, Statistics, (530) 564-0553, cmdrake@ucdavis.edu.

Public health law

Lisa Ikemoto, a bioethicist and professor of law at UC Davis, can talk about public health law implications of the flu outbreak, including the need to balance extreme public health measures, like quarantine or isolation, with individuals’ civil rights. Contact: Lisa Ikemoto, School of Law, (530) 754-6463, lcikemoto@ucdavis.edu.

Why is 'swine flu' scary?

Thomas Beamish, associate professor of sociology, studies how people perceive and understand risks. He can comment on why some risks seem scarier to us than others, and on the dread that surrounds the current flu outbreak. Contact: Thomas Beamish, Sociology, (530) 754-6897, tdbeamish@ucdavis.edu.

About UC Davis

For 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 31,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $500 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science -- and advanced degrees from six professional schools -- Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

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