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First Cases of H1N1 Found in Poultry


September 3, 2009

We've heard about the H1N1 virus in humans and pigs, but for the first time cases are being found in poultry in select parts of South America.

The disease is not affecting poultry in Virginia, but that's not stopping farmers from being vigilant.

Farmers say H1N1 affects turkeys just like it does humans, with coughing and sneezing. But with tight bio-security measures, they say we have nothing to worry about.

Linwood Vrolijk has been a poultry farmer for nearly 20 years, and with 44,000 turkeys on his farm, he says they take every precaution to keep them healthy.

"Flus are always an issue, whether in the United States or Argentina or Chile or wherever, and so we're always trying to take bio-security measures to make sure that the food chain stays safe," says Vrolijk.

And farmers say if the virus was to spread to the area, the bigger issue would be keeping it contained.

"If it's as contagious as they say, yes, the whole flock would get it and probably if one farm in the area gets it, most of us would get it," says Vrolijk.

But if that was to occur, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says a spread to consumers wouldn't be possible.

"If they test positive that flock never leaves. It is destroyed and composted usually right there on the farm to minimize the slightest chance of spreading it while the birds travel," says Elaine Lidholm, VDAC Director of Communications.

In fact, it would be the farmers who would be hit hardest, losing their entire flock.

"Yeah, farming takes its licks whenever a contagious disease comes through. But we try to be as vigilant as possible and deal with flocks as soon as something would arise," says Vrolijk.

And both VDAC and Vrolijk say consumers can continue to eat turkey, because the health hazards come from personal contact.

"As far as I know, most flus aren't transferred through you eat, they're transferred through contact," says Vrolijk.

Vrolijk says if H1N1 was discovered in some turkeys they probably wouldn't be separated individually, but that farm would be quarantined as a whole, and those birds euthanized.

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