Chilean turkey virus identical to pandemic A(H1N1): official

Chilean health officials on Saturday confirmed that a flu outbreak detected on two turkey farms was identical to the pandemic influenza A(H1N1) virus and was transmitted by humans.

The outbreak was initially reported late Thursday in two farms in the Valparaiso region, 160 kilometers (99 miles) west of the capital Santiago, by the Chilean Agricultural and Livestock Service.

“Preliminary results from the analysis showed that the virus (found in the turkeys) is the same as that in Chile” during its current southern hemisphere summer, said the Public Health Institute (ISP), the country’s top public health authority.

Chile is one of the countries worst-hit by the A(H1N1) virus in South America, the region that accounts for over 70 percent of the nearly 1,800 deaths worldwide. According to the latest bulletin by Chile’s
health ministry, 116 people have died of swine flu and another 12,175 people were treated for infections. But the intensity of the pandemic has lessened. The case of transmission from humans to turkeys was the first in the world. But Health Secretary Jeanette Vega said the strain was not a mutated form of the A(H1N1) virus.
World health officials have expressed concern the virus could gain strength and mutate. The World Organization for Animal Health, based in Paris, said it is awaiting confirmation of the strains from analysis by other international laboratories of record. According to the ISP, analysis of the full genome will be available starting late next week.
The alert over the turkey farms was raised after the company running the properties noticed a sudden 70 percent drop in egg production and eggshell quality in late July. Consuming turkeys, the ISP stressed, “does not present any risks to the population.” Chileans are major turkey consumers, eating up some 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) per person each year. Some 50 percent of their turkey exports go to the European Union, with the other half going to several countries, including Mexico,
Canada and Japan.

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