H1N1 virus found in turkeys poses no threat to human health, says UN agency

27 August 2009

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today that the detection of the H1N1 flu in turkeys in Chile does raise concerns about the spread of the virus in other poultry farms, but added that it does not pose any immediate threat to human health.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today that the detection of the H1N1 flu in turkeys in Chile does raise concerns about the spread of the virus in other poultry farms, but added that it does not pose any immediate threat to human health.

According to a news release issued by the Rome-based agency, Chilean authorities reported on 20 August that an identical H1N1 strain to the one currently circulating among humans worldwide was present in turkeys in two farms near the seaport of Valparaiso.

The agency stated, however, that the discovery does not pose any immediate threat to human health and turkey meat can still be sold commercially following veterinary inspection and hygienic processing.

“The reaction of the Chilean authorities to the discovery of H1N1 in turkeys – namely prompt reporting to international organizations, establishing a temporary quarantine, and the decision to allow infected birds to recover rather than culling them – is scientifically sound,” said FAO’s interim Chief Veterinary Officer, Juan Lubroth.

“Once the sick birds have recovered, safe production and processing can continue. They do not pose a threat to the food chain,” he added.

Chile is now the fourth country where the H1N1 virus has been found to have been transmitted from farm workers showing flu-like illness to animals, with swine becoming infected in Canada, Argentina and, most recently, Australia.

FAO noted that the current H1N1 virus strain, although contagious, is no more deadly than common seasonal flu viruses. But it could theoretically become more dangerous if it combines with H5N1 – commonly known as avian flu – which is much more deadly but harder to pass along among humans.

The agency is encouraging improved monitoring of health among animals and ensuring that hygienic and good farming practice guidelines are followed, including protecting farm workers if animals are sick and not allowing sick workers near animals.

 

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