Canadians decode flu virus, eat pork sandwiches in parliamentMay 7th, 2009 - 9:53 am ICT by IANS
By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, May 7 (IANS) Canadian scientists became the first in the world Wednesday to decode the genetic make-up of the influenza A (H1N1) virus even as top leaders and MPs openly ate pork sandwiches in parliament to dispel fears about pork contamination.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and her top health official David Butler-Jones claimed that scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory have successfully decoded the genetic make-up of the flu virus from samples taken locally and in Mexico.
“The world’s knowledge of the H1N1 flu virus has taken a significant step forward thanks to the excellent work done at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory,” the minister said.
“This is an important achievement for our scientists as it marks the first successful sequencing of virus samples from different countries,” said Butler-Jones.
“Our researchers should be commended for completing this important work in less than a week. This is one of the laboratory’s finest hours,” the top health official claimed.
The genetic blueprint of the flu will provide important information for researchers studying the virus.
Frank Plummer, who heads the National Microbiology Laboratory, said: “This takes us a big step forward in understanding how this virus works. Our preliminary analysis does not indicate a significant difference between the virus in Mexico and the virus in Canada.”
Plummer said the breakthrough on the virus has been reported to GenBank - an international, searchable database - which will allow more researchers access to the results.
Amid the successful genetic decoding of the virus, Canadians were thrown into confusion when a World Health Organization (WHO) official Wednesday cautioned that the meat of pigs infected with the H1N1 flu may be deadly.
Jorgen Schlundt, WHO director of department of food safety and food-borne diseases, reportedly warned that consuming meat from sick and dead pigs infected with swine flu could have the virus.
However, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, opposition leader Michael Ignatieff and MPs countered the WHO claim by eating pork sandwiches in parliament.
“Canadian pork is safe. There is no danger. Bottom line: Canadian pork is safe,” claimed the agriculture minister.
Meanwhile, 36 news cases of the virus took the Canadian total to 201.
The health minister said the government is closely monitoring the spread of the virus and providing people with timely information.
“Knowledge of transmission patterns will help public health professionals and the public stay current on issues related to this influenza,” she said.
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