Published January 14, 2015
Swine flu has jumped to birds, opening a potentially dangerous new chapter in the global epidemic.
Chile's health ministry said it ordered a quarantine Friday for two turkey farms outside the port city of Valparaiso after genetic tests confirmed sick birds were afflicted with the same virus circulating in humans.
The virus now circulating in humans around the world — a mixture of human, pig and bird genes — has proven to be very contagious but no more deadly than common seasonal flu so far.
But health experts have expressed fears that it could combine with avian flu, which is far more deadly but tougher to pass along, to create a more dangerous, easily transmitted strain.
Deputy Health Minister Jeannette Vega told Chile's Radio Cooperativa on Friday that genetic testing confirmed the strain found in turkeys was not standard bird flu.
"What the turkeys have is the human virus — there is no mutation at all," she said.
The farms' owner, Sopraval SA, alerted the government after egg production dropped at the farms this month, the Agriculture Ministry said. After initial tests on four samples, further genetic testing confirmed a match with the subtype A/H1N1 that became a pandemic this year.
The Health Ministry said it ordered a complete quarantine Friday and alerted the World Health Organization.
Vega said Chile has applied strong measures to contain this outbreak in turkeys, making sure that people who have come into contact with the farms avoid infecting others.
The virus has infected at least 12,000 people in Chile and is responsible for 128 confirmed deaths.