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Cleanup complete at other B.C. bird flu site

Cleaning and disinfection work have been completed on the second of two poultry farms in the Abbotsford, B.C. area after birds at both sites were found infected with a strain of avian flu.

The completed cleanup has been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the CFIA said in a statement Friday.

CFIA approval of the second cleanup gives Canada a three-month timeframe after which it can regain its status as free of notifiable avian flu, if no more cases are found in the meantime and surveillance continues to be carried out during that time.

Tens of thousands of birds were gassed and composted at the two infected farms, which were confirmed on Jan. 24 and Feb. 11 respectively to have birds with a low-pathogenicity strain of avian influenza.

Testing so far suggests the same “low-path”strain of H5N2 at both farms, though the exact subtype has yet to be confirmed at the second site.

Surveillance continues on the commercial poultry premises within three km of the first and second infected premises and any in-contact premises still under movement restriction outside of the three-km radius.

As of Friday, CFIA said it has 33 premises quarantined in relation to these two cases.

If the second case is also confirmed as “low-path,” Canada also gets to keep its World Organization for Animal Health (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 since 2003 has killed over 250 people overseas, generally through direct contact with infected birds or their fluids.

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