Aug 29, 2009
H1N1 FLU PANDEMIC
H1N1 flu found in birds
UN agency warns of more deadly H1N1-bird flu mix after outbreak on Chilean farms
A worker spraying disinfectant at a vehicle at the entrance of a turkey plant south of Santiago, Chile. — PHOTO: REUTERS
ROME – AN H1N1 flu outbreak in turkeys in Chile has raised fears that the new virus could combine with avian influenza and mutate into a more dangerous disease, especially in South-east Asia, which has been hardest hit by bird flu, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned.
Britain, France get first lot of vaccine
BELGIUM/LONDON – BRITAIN and France have received their first batches of H1N1 flu vaccine, officials said, as governments began to arm themselves against a second wave of the pandemic during the northern winter.
The World Health Organisation has been warning governments for months to brace themselves for a resurgence of the H1N1 virus when the cold season hits the northern hemisphere.
The outbreak in Chile was announced last week, It was the first case of the virus found outside humans and pigs. Chile said it was not a public health threat. The FAO, however, has expressed concern that poultry farms elsewhere in the world could now become infected with the virus.
‘The current H1N1 virus strain is a mixture of human, pig and bird genes and has proved to be very contagious, but no more deadly than common seasonal flu viruses,’ the Rome-based agency said in a statement.
‘However, it could theoretically become more dangerous if it adds virulence by combining with H5N1, commonly known as avian flu, which is far more deadly but harder to pass along among humans.’
The FAO noted that Chile does not have avian influenza, also known as bird flu. But it added: ‘In South-east Asia, where there is a lot of the (avian flu) virus circulating in poultry, the introduction of H1N1 in these populations would be of a greater concern.’
Bird flu, which has been circulating in Asia for years, has killed 262 out of 433 infected globally since 2003. Indonesia alone accounted for more than 100 deaths.
The H1N1 flu outbreak in turkeys in Chile was found in two farms in the Valparaiso region, 160km west of Santiago. The virus was transmitted by humans.
The Chilean authorities have established a temporary quarantine and decided to allow the infected birds to recover rather than culling them, a BBC report said.
The FAO called for better monitoring of the health of animals and for farms to follow good farming practice guidelines, ‘including protecting farm workers if animals are sick and not allowing sick workers near animals’.
‘The emergence of new influenza virus strains capable of affecting humans and domestic animals remains a broader, more general concern that is being closely monitored by the FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the World Health Organisation,’ it said.