Chile’s agriculture ministry has confirmed the human pandemic strain of influenza A H1N1 in over 36,000 turkeys on farms in its central Valparaiso region, marking the virus’ first known crossover to birds.
The H1N1 flu strain is reported involved in the deaths of about 1,800 people worldwide, including about 130 in Chile and 71 in Canada as of Thursday.
The birds’ flu was confirmed Thursday as pandemic H1N1 by the Public Health Institute of Chile (ISP), according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The Associated Press news service on Friday said the turkey farms are owned by Chilean agri-food firm Sopraval SA. According to the OIE, the farms are “vertically integrated” operations “where appropriate biosecurity measures are applied.”
All affected properties are now quarantined, the OIE said Friday. While the affected areas will be screened and disinfected, no other measures are to be taken, the OIE said.
The affected farms have a total of 59,554 susceptible birds so far, out of which 36,585 were confirmed to have the virus. None have died of it, nor have any been destroyed or slaughtered, the OIE said.
The affected premises had been “systematically monitored” and had posted negative results until July 28, the OIE said.
The pandemic strain of H1N1 is known to be a combination of genetics from human, swine and avian strains of influenza, although several major western media have referred to it as “swine flu” on first reference at least, much to the chagrin of the hog industry.
It’s not known at what exact point the virus jumped between species in Chile. However, the OIE, quoting Dr. Ternicier Claudio of the Chilean ag ministry, reported that before clinical signs of the virus appeared, “some birds were exposed to people showing respiratory symptoms.”
The virus initially spread from one breeding site to three others through “horizontal transmission,” the OIE said.
AP quoted an interview with Chile’s deputy health minister Jeannette Vega with Radio Cooperativa on Friday, saying the turkeys are confirmed to have the human strain of the virus with “no mutation at all.”
The only other known crossovers of H1N1 from humans to animals were a herd of hogs in Alberta earlier this spring, which were quarantined and later culled for animal welfare reasons; an isolated case late last month in a Quebec hog herd that was not quarantined and is reported to have completely recovered; and a hog herd in Argentina, also last month.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said last month it would no longer quarantine hog herds found to carry H1N1.