RPT-Chile H1N1 cases in turkeys not alarming, says OIE

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PARIS, Aug 21 (Reuters) - The outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus among turkeys in Chile should not be a cause for alarm as animal cases remain minor compared to the pandemic facing humans, the World Organisation for Animal Health said on Friday.

"This shouldn't be turned into a major event," said Dr Monique Eloit, deputy director-general of the Paris-based OIE.

"We are facing a human pandemic...Cases in animals are more anecdotal events," she told Reuters.

Chile's farming and livestock agency SAG announced on Thursday that the H1N1 flu virus had been detected at two farms 75 miles (120 km) west of the capital Santiago, the first time the virus has been found outside humans and pigs. [ID:nLL270385]

The spread of H1N1 to poultry was "not surprising" given that the virus contains human, pig and avian strains, Eloit said, adding the virus was likely transmitted via humans given the large number of human cases in Chile.

After being informed of turkey cases by the Chilean authorities, the OIE was awaiting detailed results in the coming days to assess the characteristics and effects of the flu found in the birds, she said.

The OIE has opposed the use of the term "swine flu" in reference to H1N1 because of the relatively small number of cases among pigs and lack of clear evidence they transmitted the virus to humans.

Initial reports about swine flu prompted many countries to ban pork meat and products imports from North America, although most of these bans have since been lifted.

The H1N1 swine flu virus was first seen in March in Mexico and California. Experts say at least 1 million people have been infected in the United States alone, and in Chile the virus has killed 128 people and infected thousands more during the southern hemisphere winter. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by James Jukwey)