The USDA has confirmed isolation of 2009 strain H1N1 influenza in a flock of 3,000 parent-level turkeys in Virginia. The flock showed a significant drop in egg production during mid-November, followed by a presumptive diagnosis of avian influenza with subsequent confirmation at the end of November.
The episode is currently the subject of an APHIS and Virginia Department of Agriculture epidemiological investigation. It is presumed that the flock was exposed by a member of an insemination crew who is known to have been affected by influenza-like systems.
All producers should warn their workers to remain at home if they feel ill or have an elevated temperature, since exposure of livestock and co-workers to influenza virus is a possibility. The same rule should apply to itinerant teams responsible for beak trimming, vaccination and moving and depleting flocks. All farm workers and crews should by now have been vaccinated against seasonal influenza strains and should receive the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available.
This is the first detection of 2009 H1N1 influenza in turkeys in the United States, although a previous case occurred in Canada earlier this year. Experiments conducted this spring at the Southeastern Poultry Research laboratory showed that chickens were essentially refractory to 2009 strain H1N1 influenza. Notwithstanding this finding, appropriate precautions to prevent infection of flocks should be followed.