23 Aug 2009

Turkey virus identical to swine flu strain

3:11 pm on 23 August 2009

Health officials in Chile have confirmed the virus involved in a flu outbreak detected on two turkey farms is identical to the pandemic swine flu strain and was transmitted by humans.

The outbreak was reported on Thursday in two farms in the Valparaiso region, 160km west of the capital of Santiago, by the Chilean Agricultural and Livestock Service.

The case of transmission from humans to turkeys was the first in the world.

Chile's 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 Organisation for Animal Health, based in Paris, said it is awaiting confirmation of the strains from analysis by other international laboratories of record.

Chile is one of the countries worst hit by swine flu in South America. According to the latest bulletin by Chile's health ministry, 116 people have died and another 12,175 people have been treated for infections, but the intensity of the pandemic has lessened.

The country's Public Health Insitute stressed that consuming turkeys does not present any risks to people.

About half Chile's turkey exports go to the European Union, with the other half going to several countries, including Mexico, Canada and Japan.