Canadian officials establish 'primary control zone' to contain epidemic

Avian flu causes seven countries to suspend BC poultry imports

By Heidi Parsons contact

- Last updated on GMT

To prevent the spread of avian influenza in British Columbia, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has established a primary control zone.
To prevent the spread of avian influenza in British Columbia, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has established a primary control zone.

Related tags: Influenza

The United States and six other countries have temporarily stopped importing any poultry from British Columbia, Canada, due to an outbreak of “highly pathogenic” avian influenza in the province.

The other countries issuing some form of import ban on Canadian poultry include Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan, according to news reports.

At the same time, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has imposed a “primary control zone” in the Fraser Valley area of southern British Columbia (see map above). The zone’s purpose is to contain the epidemic by restricting the movement of birds and anything that has been exposed to them.

The primary control zone is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the south by the United States border. The zone’s northern border is Highway 16, and its eastern limit is the border between British Columbia and Alberta, a CFIA spokesperson said.

Like wildfire

The first hint of a problem came on December 1, when the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture notified the CFIA that the H5 avian influenza virus had been detected at two farms in the Fraser Valley. The CFIA then placed those facilities — a broiler breeder farm in Chilliwack, and a turkey farm in Abbotsford — under quarantine.

By December 3, the CFIA had placed two more Fraser Valley farms under quarantine. The agency held a conference call with key industry associations and notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) about the situation.

In addition, the agency posted a web update on the investigation. Together with officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada and British Columbia’s Ministries of Agriculture and Health, the CFIA also held a technical briefing for the media.

Strain confirmed

On December 4, tests performed at Canada’s National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease identified “a highly pathogenic H5N2 virus” as the strain responsible for poultry deaths on two Fraser Valley farms.

APHIS_chickens_with_Avian-flu-symptoms
Symptoms of avian influenza in chickens may include purple combs and swelling around the eyes. Photo courtesy of USDA/APHIS.

Once the outbreak strain was confirmed, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suspended imports of live and raw poultry from British Columbia. John Clifford, USDA’s chief veterinarian, told reporters that his agency does not “see any current risk to human health” in the US as a result of the outbreak.

Notices on the CFIA website state: 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 that do not have consistent contact with infected birds.”

The CFIA reported December 5 that it had “depopulated” the surviving birds in an affected flock on one poultry farm. As of December 8, at least 80,000 chickens and turkeys had died as a result of the flu, and as many as 60,000 more birds may need to be destroyed.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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