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Alta. hog herd with H1N1 fully culled

Facing a federal quarantine for the H1N1 flu virus on his farm for the foreseeable future, a central Alberta hog producer has opted instead to cull his remaining herd of around 2,000 animals.

Arnold Van Ginkel, who farms at Clearwater County near Rocky Mountain House, said in an Alberta Pork press release Sunday that the presence of the human H1N1 strain in his farrow-to-finish hog operation “left me with few options.”

The quarantine, implemented by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), meant no animals from the farm could be marketed until testing has indicated the virus is no longer present in the herd and all animals are healthy.

And although officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed meat from animals that have recovered from H1N1 is safe to eat, Mr. Van Ginkel “was having trouble finding a market for the animals,” Alberta Pork said.

“With the quarantine still in place, I was facing another partial cull due to overcrowding and no prospects for marketing my animals once they were given a clean bill of health,” Van Ginkel said Sunday.

“The only real option left was to have a complete cull and end the uncertainty for my farm and for the entire pork industry.”

The second cull, from what was originally a herd of about 2,200 hogs, follows a cull in mid-May of about 500 market-ready hogs.

The virus, believed to be a combination of swine, avian and human flu strains, is presumed to have jumped to the hog herd from a carpenter who worked in the Van Ginkel barn after returning from Mexico. The quarantine was imposed in late April after the virus was confirmed as H1N1.

A cull took place late last week at the farm in the presence of federal and provincial animal health experts and animal welfare officials, who ensured the cull occurred using humane methods and that precautions to protect animal and human health were taken.

No meat or pork products from the cull will enter the human food or animal feed chain, Alberta Pork said.

“Start over”

“Alberta’s pork producers support the decision by Mr. Van Ginkel to cull these animals, it is his farm and his business decision,” Alberta Pork executive director Paul Hodgman said in Sunday’s release.

“Although not common, it is not unusual for swine producers to cull their entire herd in order to eradicate diseases and start fresh with a new swine herd.”

Van Ginkel now plans to apply to government for financial assistance under the AgriRecovery and AgriStability programs to address losses associated with the culling of his animals, the costs of cleaning and disinfecting his operation and the time he is out of production, Alberta Pork said.

“We came to Alberta from Holland for a chance to start a new life and this entire event has been extremely stressful for my family,” Van Ginkel said Sunday. “We will now need to start over and build a future for our family. I ask that the media and the public respect our privacy as we take the next few weeks to recover from this ordeal.”

As of Monday afternoon, Alberta was home to 172 lab-confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus in people, including one person who died while infected with the flu virus.

Nationwide, as of Monday afternoon, Canada has seen a total of 2,446 lab-confirmed cases of H1N1, including four people who either died of the disease or were infected but suffered from other illnesses as well. Of Canada’s total case load, half the cases (1,223) are in Ontario, followed by Quebec (547) and Saskatchewan (210).

Worldwide, as of Monday morning, 73 countries had reported a total of 25,288 cases of H1N1 in people, including 139 deaths, to the World Health Organization (WHO). The largest number of cases remains in the U.S. (13,217) followed by Mexico (5,717), Canada and Australia (1,051).

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