All the birds on a second commercial poultry farm in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley have been destroyed following Wednesday’s confirmation of an H5 type of avian flu on the property.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a release Saturday that the second farm’s birds were “humanely destroyed” and would go to disposal “in accordance with provincial environmental regulations and internationally accepted disease control guidelines.”
This second flock’s cases of bird flu had been discovered through regular testing, as it fell within a ring of surveillance for three km all around an Abbotsford-area turkey farm where low-pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza was found on Jan. 24. All 60,000 birds on that first farm were culled, gassed and gathered into a compost pile in late January.
Tests are 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.
But the Reuters news agency on Wednesday quoted CFIA officials as saying they were unaware of any connection between the two farms, thus making it “quite likely” that the second case resulted from an “independent introduction” of the flu virus.
The CFIA has put quarantines on an additional 12 properties in the area, 10 of which are within an overlapping three-km ring around the second property. Another two quarantines are for premises that have had “some contact” with the second infected farm. That brings the total number of active quarantines in the area to 45 as of Friday, CFIA said.
Testing and surveillance will follow for at least 21 days before any of the other farms are released from their quarantines.
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.