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Bird flu found in another B.C. flock

Less than three weeks after H5N2 avian flu appeared in a commercial turkey flock in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, a neighbouring flock has been confirmed with avian flu.

This second flock had been tested within a ring of surveillance for three km all around the Abbotsford-area turkey farm where low-pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza was found on Jan. 24, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Wednesday.

Tests are now underway to confirm the exact subtype and strain of the second flock’s cases of avian influenza, but tests so far indicate its strain is a less severe “low-path” strain — and is similar to what was found on the turkey farm, CFIA said.

The new finding means culling, euthanasia and disposal for an as-yet unannounced number of birds, on top of the 60,000 that were gassed and are now being composted in one of the barns on the nearby turkey farm.

Once all birds are removed, CFIA said it will oversee the cleaning and disinfection of the second farm’s barns, vehicles and equipment.

As it has in previous cases, CFIA has put movement restrictions on commercial operations within three km of the new infected premises. Since it overlaps the three-km ring around the turkey farm, it puts 10 more properties under CFIA quarantine.

That’s on top of 33 farms still under quarantine following the Jan. 24 H5N2 finding, CFIA said.

Another three sites outside the turkey farm’s three-km radius had been quarantined due to movement between them and the index farm, but CFIA said those three have now passed a required 21-day monitoring period and are released from their quarantines.

Provincial animal health and public health authorities, local poultry specialists and industry are “actively collaborating” in the new response effort, CFIA said.

The agency also must report its new finding to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and international trading partners.

If the new case is also confirmed as “low-path,” Canada keeps its OIE status as free of “high-path” bird flu, which it regained in April 2008 after cleanup of an outbreak of H7N3 on a poultry farm near Regina Beach, Sask.

While bird flu can be devastating on an affected commercial poultry farm, human health experts’ concern is that a “high-path” strain such as the notorious H5N1 could mutate or combine with a human flu virus that could spread more easily between people and spur a pandemic.

H5N1, from 2003 up to Wednesday, has killed 254 people overseas, generally through direct contact with infected birds or their fluids.

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