Man. bird flu quarantine widens, hatchery destocked

Another farm in Manitoba’s southern Interlake region has been added to a list of quarantined properties following the appearance of low-grade avian flu on a neighbouring turkey farm.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported Thursday evening it had put a quarantine in place on a fourth poultry farm that had “contact” with an H5N2 avian flu-infected turkey breeding operation in the RM of Rockwood.

The added restrictions bring the number of quarantined farms to five, including the infected farm and a nearby hatchery operation.

However, CFIA emphasized Thursday, the added quarantine “does not mean the disease is spreading,” nor that it’s appeared anywhere other than the one Rockwood turkey farm where it was confirmed last week.

Three of the quarantined properties have in fact turned up negative for avian flu in initial testing, CFIA said.

The infected farm’s birds were all destroyed as of Nov. 29 and disinfection work is underway there.

Nevertheless, CFIA said Thursday, it’s now in the process of destroying and disposing of all poults and eggs at the quarantined hatchery.

“This decision was made following a thorough assessment of the premises, as part of the ongoing investigation,” CFIA said. “It permits the hatchery, a large supplier for Western Canada, to restore normal operations as quickly as possible.”

The hatchery owner and the Manitoba poultry industry support the decision to destroy the hatchery’s stock, CFIA emphasized.

Once destruction and disposal of the hatchery farm’s stock is complete, CFIA will oversee cleaning and disinfection of the premises. The agency said it will also compensate owners of livestock or other “things” ordered destroyed under the Health of Animals Act.

Usually, CFIA said Thursday, eligible producers can expect compensation payment in six to 10 weeks.

The virus in birds at the infected Rockwood farm was confirmed last week as a low-severity (“low-path”) strain of avian influenza H5N2, and the province’s first-ever on-farm case of notifiable avian flu.

That confirmation allows Canada 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 high-path H7N3 on a poultry farm near Regina Beach, Sask.

Bird flu can be devastating on an affected commercial poultry farm, but human health experts’ concern is that a “high-path” strain such as the infamous H5N1 could mutate or combine with another flu virus such as H1N1 that could spread more easily between people.

Avian flu is not a food safety risk when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked.

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