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Avian influenza detected on Abbotsford poultry farm

Birds at a commercial poultry farm in Abbotsford have tested positive for avian influenza, according to the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Detection of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus usually requires euthanization of every bird in an affected flock.

In this case, the ministry announced in a May 19 release, the farm was put under quarantine by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and all other poultry farms within a 10-kilometre radius received notification of the outbreak.

Avian influenza has been spreading globally since late 2021, and cases in Canada this year had so far mostly affected commercial and private flocks of poultry and egg producers in Alberta and Ontario,

So far, according to CFIA figures, millions of birds in Canada have eithjer died of the virus or been culled as a result of outbreaks.

Avian influenza is not a food-safety concern for humans eating cooked poultry or eggs.

The news of the latest outbreak, confirmed by the CFIA, comes after confirmed positive tests in seven small private flocks throughout the province.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, those "backyard" flocks were in Richmond, the central Kootenays region, Kelowna, and Armstrong. 

The Abbotsford case is the first farm to be affected in the Fraser Valley during this latest outbreak, the ministry said.

The B.C. ministry release noted that after the first confirmed case of H5N1 n B.C. this year—in mid-April, at a commercial poultry producer in the Regional District of North Okanagan—the province issued a general order requiring commercial producers (with more than 100 birds) to keep their flocks indoors. This order has been extended until June 13, 2022.

An order that prevents producers from travelling with birds to co-mingling events has also been lengthened, until June 19.

The H5N1 virus is rarely transmitted to humans, but when that does occur, there has been a mortality rate of more than 50 percent. It is highly transmissable between birds, though, including wild birds, which can transmit the virus to domestic poultry and even pet birds.

The H5N1 virus is believed to originate in wild aquatic birds—including geese, swans, ducks, gulls, and terns, as well as shorebirds—which are considered to act as reservoirs for avian influenza A viruses. Domestic poultry such as chickens, turkeys, and ducks  can be infected by some of these viruses.

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