This article is from The Globe and Mail!
TORONTO — The Canadian Press Published on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009 12:21PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009 3:05PM EDT
Ontario's top medical official says an outbreak of swine flu among turkeys is a “clarion call” for poultry and livestock workers to get both the seasonal and H1N1 flu shots.
Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, says “the risk to human health from this situation is minimal” after some turkeys tested positive for the H1N1, or swine flu virus.
Provincial officials say the outbreak affected an Ontario breeder's flock of turkeys which were not destined for the food chain.
Dr. Deb Stark, Ontario's chief veterinarian, says the situation likely involved human to bird transmission.
Dr. Stark says the flock operator voluntarily quarantined the infected birds and put “movement controls in place.”
She says the finding “does not pose a food safety risk.”
While officials declined to name the farm, the Turkey Farmers of Canada said on its website that the birds belonged to Hybrid Turkeys, a breeder based in Kitchener, Ont.
The findings will be of keen interest internationally, coming just days after the publication of a study that suggested turkeys are not susceptible to the pandemic virus.
The work, done by researchers in Italy, was published late last week in the online journal Eurosurveillance.
Well-known influenza researcher Dr. Ilaria Capua and colleagues at the OIE collaborating centre for infectious diseases at the human-animal interface in Venice tried to infect turkeys with the new H1N1 virus. The OIE is the acronym used by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.
Turkeys are generally very susceptible to influenza viruses and one would expect to see illness among birds if they became infected with a flu virus, Dr. Capua said in an interview Tuesday.
But while her team exposed turkeys to massive doses of H1N1 virus, they saw no evidence of infection in the birds. Nor did they find any evidence of virus in the lungs or tissues of the turkeys.
Dr. Capua said teams of researchers in Britain and the U.S. have also tried to experimentally infect turkeys, also without success.
Ontario isn't the first jurisdiction to report finding H1N1 virus in turkeys. Officials in Chile announced in August that they had found the virus in turkey there.
But some leading influenza experts have quietly expressed skepticism about that earlier report, musing whether lab contamination could be responsible for the finding.
Dr. Capua said a lot of questions need to be answered about the new discovery in Ontario, including whether the full genetic sequence of the virus has been checked to ensure that it is the pandemic virus and not another H1N1 variant.
“Before we say that this virus can spill into turkeys or into birds, I would really make sure that it's the right virus. And that there's no possible concern about any human error or contamination and that all the internal genes have been sequenced,” she said.