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Flu-Infected Turkeys No Threat To Human Health

An outbreak of the H1N1 virus at an Ontario turkey farm may have soured many people’s memories of their Thanksgiving dinner, but provincial officials said Tuesday the infected birds pose little or no risk to human health.

“We have a lot of controls in place to ensure that only healthy birds enter the food system,” Ontario’s top veterinarian Dr. Deb Stark explained. “I’m quite comfortable in saying that I think — I hope Ontarians enjoyed that Thanksgiving turkey. I certainly enjoyed mine.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Arlene King, said this incident serves as a wake-up call to poultry and livestock workers to receive the H1N1 vaccination. Officials believe this outbreak involved human to bird transmission.

CityNews learned the infections occurred at the Kitchener-based Hybrid Turkeys, the country’s primary turkey breeder. Officials noted the company voluntarily took steps to quarantine the birds and to put other measures in place.

There are two barns on the premises with about 3,500 birds in each barn.

“The operators noticed a drop in production. That was the trigger,” Stark said.

All of the infected turkeys were mothers and the company shipped their eggs out to farmers, so all turkeys in grocery stores are safe to eat.

Cooking a turkey to the correct internal temperature of 160F would kill the virus if it were present.

This is the second time swine flu has appeared in animals in Canada. The bug was last detected in pigs on an Alberta farm last April.

Cases of swine flu in turkeys have been confirmed in Chile, as well, and officials there have also said those birds pose no threat to public health.