Could Canada Have An Outbreak of Avian Flu?

A possible outbreak of avian flu on a farm near Abbotsford, B.C. may result in the culling of up to 60,000 turkeys. The first tests has shown that birds at E & H Farms are carrying a strain of avian flu.

Sandra Stephens, a disease control specialist with CFIA, has stated that plans are being made on how to destroy the birds and dispose of their carcasses while awaiting more tests. Since Wednesday night 22 other commerical farms in a three-kilometers radius have been under quarantine. Until poultry products have been tested they can not leave any of the affected farms.

The quarantine will last three weeks past the time the turkeys at E & H Farms have been culled.

The farm is about 75 kilometres from Vancouver. A worker noticed that some of the birds were experiencing respiratory distress.

There are two barns at the farm that have had sick turkeys. The mortality rate has been at a normal to “perhaps slightly elevated” level. First tests have shown that the birds have H5 strain which is similar to the H5N1 virus. World-wide more than 250 people have died from the H5N1 strain of avian flu.

Canada.com reports:

“It’s possible that we could have an H5N1, but it would appear, just by the way this virus is acting, that it’s not a highly pathogenic form, so it wouldn’t be the Asian strain,” she said.

One of the farms employees may have taken ill because of contact with the birds. The public is not said to be at risk at this time.

Those who have had direct contact with the birds will begin a course of anti-viral drugs as a precaitionary measure.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall is reported by Canada.com:

“The risk is really remote that the avian influenza would move to humans or infect a human,” he said.

“We’ve got rapid communication and if we need to, we can very quickly get out and assess who might be at risk,” Kendall said. “We have protocols in place for the protection that we think is needed for the people who would be exposed if they did a cull.”

There was a avian flu outbreak once before in Canada. In 2004 B.C. had to cull more than 17 million turkeys.

The deadly Asian strain has yet to touch down in North America.

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