H1N1 flu strain found in Canadian turkey flock

Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:33pm EDT
 
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Turkeys in the Canadian province of Ontario have become infected with the H1N1 flu virus, but no birds or eggs from the farm entered the food supply, provincial government officials said on Tuesday.

The infection poses minimal risk to human health, Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said in a news conference in Toronto.

However, she noted the discovery highlights the need for those who work with farm animals to be vaccinated for both seasonal flu and the pandemic H1N1 flu strain.

The risk of the virus passing between people and animals is that the virus could evolve into a form against which humans have little or no immunity, King said. There is no evidence that the virus has changed, she added.

The discovery in a single Ontario barn by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the second known incident of turkeys becoming infected with the H1N1 virus, also called swine flu. The first was in a flock in Chile.

The Ontario case comes just over a week after the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, which traditionally involves a turkey dinner.

Health officials are following up with people who had contact with the infected turkeys. One person with contact had shown flu-like symptoms.

The turkeys' owner has voluntarily agreed to quarantine the infected birds, but they aren't likely to be prematurely slaughtered, said Dr. Deb Stark, Ontario's chief veterinarian.

The outbreak of H1N1 flu among turkeys in Chile was discovered in August. It was also the first case of the virus being found outside humans and pigs [ID:nN20543933].

Earlier this year the strain was found in hog herds in the Western Canadian provinces of Alberta and Manitoba.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel; editing by Rob Wilson)