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United States among seven countries banning B.C. poultry over avian flu

Five farms quarantined, over 140,000 birds face euthanization

By: Diego Flammini,

Turkey and chicken farmers across the country will watch with great interest as farms in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley try to recover after the latest avian flu outbreak.

The strand of avian flu known as H5N2 will result in more than 140,000 chickens and turkeys being euthanized in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus to other birds.

In response, the United States, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, South Africa, Mexico, and China installed bans on B.C. poultry and in some cases, any poultry coming from Canada.

It’s still too early to determine the impact the outbreak will have on the economy, but a June 2014 report from Statistics Canada shows that in 2013, British Columbia produced 100,976 chickens and 2,718 turkeys worth $429,846 in revenue. In 2013, Canada as a whole produced 668,967 turkeys and chickens worth $2,817,998 in revenue.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) website reports that they were notified December 1st by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture about avian flu at two Fraser Valley farms. Ongoing tests confirmed that five farms contain birds infected with H5N2.

A December 6th statement released by the CFIA said more locations could be quarantined - a practice that “is normal and not unexpected.”

When poultry is handled and cooked properly, the chances of someone getting ill from avian influenza is significantly reduced and so far there have been no reports of human illness.

Farms in the Fraser Valley have dealt with H5N2 twice in the past when in 2009, about 74,000 turkeys were eliminated after the virus infected two farms and more than 60,000 ducks and geese were destroyed in 2005.

The most serious avian flu episode in Canada happened in 2004 when a strain of H7N3 infected more than 40 farms within the Fraser Valley. 17 million turkeys, chickens, and other birds were slaughtered. The government of Alberta’s agricultural and rural development website estimated the cost at $300 million.

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