UPDATE: Turkeys to be destroyed after avian flu hits Abbotsford farm

Birds at dozens of local farms in "surveillance zone" to be tested.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency workers are on scene at an Abbotsford turkey farm quarantined after the discovery of avian flu.



UPDATED STORY: Hong Kong announced Wednesday that it had banned imported poultry products from the Fraser Valley: http://www.abbynews.com/news/284654581.html

An Abbotsford turkey farm and a broiler breeder chicken farm in Chilliwack are in quarantine after H5 avian influenza was discovered earlier this week.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said tests confirmed the disease Monday after both farms reported significant numbers of sudden deaths over the weekend.

Dr. Jane Pritchard, chief veterinarian officer with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, said about half of the Abbotsford’s farm’s 11,000 birds had already died from the disease, while 1,000 of the Chilliwack’s farm’s 7,000 birds have died.

“This is catasrophic for the individual farmers,” she told reporters.

The remaining birds will be euthanized and composted on site. Officials did not identify the afflicted farms.

Further testing is underway to determine the strain of the influenza and its pathogenicity (the severity of the illness in birds), but Pritchard said officials are treating it as if it was a high path strain.

It’s not yet known how the virus made its way onto the affected farms.

“At this point we have no direct connection between the two farms,” Pritchard said. The two farms are eight kilometres apart.

“There are multiple ways of transmission, either through migratory birds or movement of infected birds to another, from humans and other aspects,” added CFIA chief veterinary officer Harpreet Kochar.

The CFIA will be setting up a “surveillance zone” around the affected farms, within which it will conduct testing and limit access to ensure no other farms are infected.

While the radius of the zone has not yet been determined, Pritchard said officials estimate that between 50 to 75 farms will be affected.

The CFIA said avian flu does not “pose risks to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked” and that the disease rarely affects humans not in contact with afflicted birds.

The turkeys were at an age at which they would likely have been destined for Christmas dinner tables.

In 2004, 17 million poultry were slaughtered after an avian flu with high pathogenicity spread through the Fraser Valley. While 14 million of those were able to be sold, three million diseased birds were destroyed.

More recent outbreaks of avian flu have been less serious.

In 2005, 60,000 birds were killed after a mild version of H5 was found at a Yarrow farm. In 2009, 41 farms were placed in quarantine and 72,000 birds were slaughtered after an H5 version was found on two farms in Abbotsford. That version of the flu was determined to be “of low pathogenicity.”

In 2008, the B.C. agriculture ministry unveiled a new $14-million lab in Abbotsford. Officials said the lab would allow the ministry to respond to disease outbreaks “faster and more efficiently.”