TORONTO – Just as the province of Ontario announced plans for mass inoculations of its citizenry with a new, government-approved H1N1 vaccine, a turkey-breeding operator in Kitchener, Ont., has confirmed that some of its livestock is infected with the H1N1 virus. The Turkey Farmers of Canada posted a news release on its website announcing the outbreak.
In what’s only the second reported case of H1N1-afflicted turkeys on record, officials are claiming that the outbreak at Hybrid Turkeys is not a danger to the food chain. “Food safety is not at risk,” said a report on the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website. “No birds or eggs from this facility have entered the food chain. Proper cooking practices destroy the influenza virus.”
Nevertheless, they are urging that the farm workers take the flu shot. Arlene King, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Deb Stark, the province’s chief veterinarian, confirmed the outbreak in an announcement on Tuesday, October 20. “Influenza viruses such as this circulate amongst birds, livestock and humans,” said Dr. Stark in a press release. “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 real concern is whether or not this strain of the virus has the ability to transfer from one animal breed to another. The poultry industry is also worried that the news has the potential to make consumers shy away from purchasing turkey. The barn at Hybrid, which contains 3,500 turkeys (none of them free range), is under quarantine. The company believes an infected person with access to the barn was the root of the outbreak.
Dr. King agreed that the afflicted flock does not pose any threat to the health of the general public. “[But] In order to protect themselves and the animals they are working with, I strongly advise all poultry and livestock workers to get immunized against the H1N1 flu virus.”