Published Date: 2004-02-21 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Avian influenza, H7 serotype, poultry - Canada(BC)(02)
Archive Number: 20040221.0557
AVIAN INFLUENZA, H7 SEROTYPE, POULTRY - CANADA (BRITISH COLUMBIA) (02)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 21 Feb 2004
Source: The Vancouver Sun and the National Post [edited]
Avian flu infects B.C. chicken farm: 16 000 birds face slaughter: Officials
say it is not the deadly strain sweeping Asia
A BC chicken farm was under government quarantine yesterday, and plans were
underway to destroy its 16 000 birds after a strain of avian flu was detected.
Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said they won't know
until today the exact nature of the virus, but stressed it is not the same
strain that has killed 22 people in southeast Asia.
The local health authority yesterday said it had contacted the 7
farmworkers who worked at the farm in Matsqui, about 30 kilometres
southeast of Vancouver in the Fraser Valley, and 2 veterinarians who had
visited it, but that none appeared sick.
"The farmworkers are being monitored by public health," said Don Bower of
Fraser Health. "And they will remain under active surveillance. Nobody is
symptomatic with flu."
Bill Anderson, acting director of the food inspection agency's animal
health and production division, said test results on the virus expected
today should tell how deadly it is. A highly virulent strain could pose a
risk to other farms in the region, because avian flu is believed to be
spread by wild waterfowl that fly from farm to farm.
"There is concern it's going to spread throughout the industry," said Lisa
Bishop, a spokeswoman with the Chicken Farmers of Canada.
British Columbia's poultry industry -- centred in the Fraser Valley --
employs thousands of workers and contributes over a billion dollars to the
Brad Reid of Thomas Reid Organic Chicken Farm in Langley said the flu
discovery has spread a chill over the industry. "Everyone's a bit
apprehensive," he said. "There is some fear out there [for their flocks],
but outbreaks like this are not uncommon. As far as I know, the flu is one
of the 100 or so strains that isn't [transmissible] to humans."
Mr. Anderson of the CFIA said the unidentified owner of the Matsqui farm
noticed several of his chickens dying this week and contacted his
That vet provided a sample from one of the dead birds to the provincially
run Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford. They conducted initial tests on the
bird that indicated it may have avian flu and contacted the CFIA on Tuesday.
The CFIA transported the sample to its National Centre for Foreign Animal
Diseases in Winnipeg, which confirmed yesterday morning the bird was
infected with a strain of avian flu known as H7 -- similar to a strain
found in poultry flocks in Delaware and New Jersey last week.
The Matsqui farm was put under immediate quarantine -- meaning no animals
or farm equipment can leave its grounds -- and plans were put in place to
kill its entire flock.
Deaths from avian flu in Asia are believed to have been caused by people
who were living and working in close proximity to infected birds.
Canada has had 3 cases of low-pathogenic H5 and H7 viruses since 1975, the
latest of which was reported in 2000 in Ontario. But it has never
experienced a highly pathogenic strain.
In part out of concern the virus could spread, farms within a 5-kilometre
radius of the infected farm have been put under "active surveillance" --
CFIA is paying close attention to whether birds on other farms are getting
Mr. Anderson said the exact method in which the birds on the Matsqui farm
will be slaughtered has not yet been determined.
"Now that the decision to destroy and eliminate the flock has been taken,
we're in the process of making the arrangements to do that as quickly as
possible," he said. He said the agency has also not decided how to dispose
of the dead chickens, but said it will be in a manner that prevents further
infection. "Incineration is an option," he said. "Rendering is being
looked at right now.... There is also the possibility of deep burial."
The government has said it will compensate the farmer for his destroyed flock.
Danuta Skowronski, a physician and epidemiologist at the B.C. Centre for
Disease Control, said while the flu discovered in B.C. is not believed to
be a danger to the public, health authorities are on "heightened alert"
because of the situation in Asia. The strain in Matsqui is an H7 strain,
as opposed to the deadlier Asian strain, which is designated H5N1.
Ms. Skowronski said the B.C. virus can cause eye infections and some
respiratory problems, and warned that any workers handling affected poultry
should wear safety goggles, masks, boots, and gloves. She also said members
of the public should, as a general rule, make sure to cook poultry to 70 C
before they eat it, and to wash all surfaces thoroughly after it has come
into contact with a chicken carcass."As long as you cook it, you cannot
contract [the virus]," Ms. Skowronski said.
There are 294 licensed chicken producers in B.C. and 50 "broiler breeders,"
which provide eggs for hatching to other farms but do not produce chickens