Avian flu arrives on more B.C. poultry farms

(Scott Bauer photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Federal officials monitoring avian flu outbreaks in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley aren’t surprised to have confirmed another three, maybe four, infected properties.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in a statement Wednesday, two more farms — both close to the initial pair of farms confirmed last week with high-pathogenicity H5N2 avian flu — have been confirmed to have avian flu in provincial tests.

A third property — technically another poultry barn on one of the previously infected sites, but operated by a separate business entity — has also been confirmed with avian flu.

Furthermore, CFIA said, it’s also got reports from the province of a ninth farm property, where avian flu is “suspected.” Testing is underway, and results are expected within the next day, the agency said.

“This identification of additional farms is not unexpected as avian influenza is highly contagious between birds and can spread rapidly,” CFIA said Wednesday.

Birds have now been euthanized on four of the infected farms, and “depopulation activities have begun” on a fifth, CFIA said. The remaining premises will be depopulated “in the coming days.”

The strain and pathogenicity of the flu virus at the three new infected properties wasn’t mentioned in Wednesday’s statement. The fifth of the eight infected properties to date was confirmed Sunday to have a highly pathogenic (“high-path”) H5 avian flu; its subtype wasn’t yet mentioned.

CFIA noted it’s still fully tracing movements in and out of the infected sites, which itself “may lead to further premises being identified and depopulated, which would not be unexpected.”

“Important signal”

Federal and provincial officials this week set up a primary control zone to help curb the spread of avian flu off the infected properties and/or to other parts of the province and country.

“Our first priority is to ensure this highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza is contained and eradicated,” provincial Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick said in a statement Monday. “The primary control zone will help us to achieve that, to allow our producers to resume normal operations just as soon as possible.”

The control zone, he said, is also “an important signal to global markets that Canada and British Columbia are taking swift and decisive action to respond to this outbreak.”

Several countries — among them the U.S., South Korea, Hong Kong, South Africa, Mexico, Taiwan and Japan — are reported to have closed their ports to imports of Canadian and/or B.C. poultry and/or poultry products in the wake of the high-path H5 flu confirmations.

Coming days and weeks, Letnick said, “will be critical in our efforts to defeat this virus. I have every confidence that everything that can be done is being done, and that British Columbia’s outstanding poultry industry will be back on its feet before long.” — AGCanada.com Network



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