Early testing suggests possible avian flu outbreak
Published Friday, January 23, 2009 2:18PM EST
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it is investigating the possibility of an H5 avian influenza outbreak on a turkey farm in B.C.'s Fraser Valley.
Agency spokesperson Monika Mazur says testing done at the B.C. provincial laboratory suggests the presence of an H5 virus but more tests are being done for confirmation at CFIA's national laboratory in Winnipeg.
Mazur says it's not yet known if the virus is of a high or low pathogenic strain and further testing must be done to determine what the virus's N or neuraminidase type is.
Mazur says the initial testing was done after turkeys on a 50,000 bird farm showed signs of respiratory distress.
Several farms within a three-kilometre radius of the turkey producer in Abbotsford, B.C., have been placed under the quarantine.
Mazur says the CFIA is informing the World Organization for Animal Health. Any outbreak of avian influenza involving H5 or H7 strains must be reported to the Paris-based organization.
The presence of H5 virus, if it is confirmed, does not mean there is an outbreak with the H5N1 virus that has killed nearly 250 people in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe.
There are multiple subtypes of H5 avian flu. In fact, the Fraser Valley experienced an H5N2 outbreak in November 2005.
B.C. Poultry Association spokesman Calvin Bruekelman says blood samples from the birds at E&H Farms tested positive for avian flu antibodies.
"That doesn't necessarily mean they're diseased with it," Bruekelman says. "It could be that they just have antibodies in the blood."
"There's nothing to be concerned about at this point," Bruekelman added, pointing out tests were expected back as soon as Friday. "Then we'll know for sure. If we need to act on it then we we'll have to depopulate the flock."
He said the quarantine was in place simply as a precaution.
Seventeen million birds were slaughtered in the Fraser Valley in February 2004 following an outbreak of H7N3, a different avian influenza subtype.