Euthanization of 60,000 turkeys could begin today in B.C.'s Fraser Valley

The Canadian Press ~ The News
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Health

Euthanization of as many as 60,000 turkeys will likely begin today at a farm in British Columbia's Fraser Valley after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed the presence of the H5 avian flu virus.

Further tests are underway to determine the pathenogetic level of the virus discovered last week on a commercial turkey farm near Abbotsford, but the agency said that initial tests indicate that the strain involved in this case is "low pathogenic." Pathogenicity refers to the severity of the illness caused in birds.

A poultry farm near E&H Farms in Abbotsford, B.C. is under a biohazard quarantine after turkeys at E&H Farms tested positive for the H5 avian flu virus Sunday. - Photo by The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Euthanization of as many as 60,000 turkeys will likely begin today at a farm in British Columbia's Fraser Valley after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed the presence of the H5 avian flu virus.

Further tests are underway to determine the pathenogetic level of the virus discovered last week on a commercial turkey farm near Abbotsford, but the agency said that initial tests indicate that the strain involved in this case is "low pathogenic." Pathogenicity refers to the severity of the illness caused in birds.

"Today (Sunday) they are looking at the preparation for sealing the barns for destroying the birds by C02 (carbon dioxide) flooding," said Sandra Stephens, veterinary program specialist with the CFIA.

The presence of H5 virus does not mean there is an outbreak of the H5N1 virus that has killed nearly 250 people in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe.

There are multiple subtypes of H5 avian flu.

In fact, the Fraser Valley experienced an H5N2 outbreak in November 2005.

Even within H5N1 viruses there are different lineages or families of viruses. The one which has wreaked such havoc in Asia and parts of Africa has so far not been found in North America.

Stephens said workers would also be organizing the composting of the turkeys' carcasses after they are gassed.

In the first stage, after the birds are destroyed, they are mixed with organic material in the barn and the decomposition temperatures can reach as high as 50 degrees C.

"That heating process is what inactivates the virus," Stephens told The Canadian Press in an interview.

She said that tests so far indicate low pathogenicity because the birds showed respiratory illness but were not dying.

"But low path is still infectious and every bird will be infected. The difference is that high path makes them very sick and will kill them."

The way the viruses appear and spread is also of great interest to scientists.

"It's an interesting study to see how these viruses move in the world," said Stephens, referring to the various migratory flyways in North America.

"When they get up into their breeding grounds you get a crossover of the birds because they all go to the same breeding grounds.

"So you can get a transfer of viruses between birds that might have typically been something that you saw in Eastern Canada or eastern seaboard of the U.S. and then all of a sudden you see it in B.C."

Ron Lewis, the director of animal health at the provincial Agriculture Ministry, said various agencies have learned many lessons as a result of two avian influenza outbreaks in the Fraser Valley in 2004 and 2005.

"We now have a mandatory biosecurity program in place for all of the commercially regulated poultry industry," he said.

"The industry has achieved a very high level of compliance with those biosecurity protocols," said Lewis, adding that about 98 per cent of the industry is in full compliance.

Initial testing for avian viruses can now be done in Abbotsford, B.C.

"So we have eliminated the delays in having to ship samples for testing at the federal lab."

While only one turkey farm is now affected, the CFIA also restricted the movement of poultry and poultry products within three kilometres of the infected premises.

The agency said avian influenza viruses do not pose risks to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked.

Avian influenza rarely affects humans unless they have had close contact with infected birds.

The birds to be euthanized at the Fraser Valley farm range in age from a few days to about 12 weeks.

The quarantine also extends to an additional 23 farms within the three-kilometre radius.

In 2004, 17 million birds died or were destroyed in an outbreak caused by a high path H7N3 virus in the Fraser Valley.

Organizations: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canadian Press, Agriculture Ministry

Geographic location: Fraser Valley, B.C., Abbotsford VANCOUVER Asia Africa British Columbia North America Europe Eastern Canada U.S.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments