Canadian Poultry Magazine

H1N1 Found in Ont. Turkey Flock

By Canadian Press; Government of Ontario   

Features New Technology Production

October 20, 2009- Provincial authorities today have confirmed H1N1 in a turkey breeding flock on an Ontario farm.

October 20, 2009- Provincial authorities today have confirmed H1N1 in a turkey breeding flock on an Ontario farm.

Health Minister Deb Matthews said the outbreak affected a breeder's flock of turkeys and the birds are therefore not destined for the food chain.


Test results indicate that the strain of flu isolated from the turkeys is the same as the H1N1 flu that has been circulating among humans since April 2009.

Local public health units are contacting individuals who may have had contact with the flock. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Labour will continue to monitor the situation and work with the producer and their employees.

Ontario's Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Deb Stark, says “influenza viruses such as this circulate amongst birds, livestock and humans.  This report is a good reminder to farmers to be even more conscientious than usual when it comes to protecting their flocks and ultimately, the people who come in contact with them.”

The producer has voluntarily quarantined the infected birds and put movement controls in place.  More information, when available, will be updated on this site.

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, 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.

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.

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.

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