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Avian flu risk higher with fall migrations

Poultry farmers in Ontario are being warned to keep biosecurity top of mind as wild birds get ready to fly south this fall.

“With the fall weather quickly approaching, resulting in colder temperatures and wild bird migrations, the threat of re-emergence of (highly pathogenic avian influenza) is real,” the Feather Board Command Centre, the emergency response arm of the province’s poultry and egg boards, said in a notice last week.

Farmers will want to stick “rigorously” to their daily biosecurity measures, and “consider appropriate additional biosecurity measures to help prevent disease occurrence and spread,” the FBCC said.

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Among those biosecurity measures, the centre recommends each farmer and farm employee and anyone else entering poultry barns put on clean footwear and protective clothing and follow all biosecurity protocols on “every entry” into barns.

Farmers, workers and visitors are also urged to “minimize” their visits to other poultry or egg production sites — and to avoid any co-mingling or other contact between their birds and wild or “outside” birds. Wild birds and rodents around barns should also be kept under “adequate” control.

Farmers should also steer clear of exchanging or sharing equipment with other poultry farms, and should make sure all vehicles and farm equipment used in and around the barns are washed and disinfected, the FBCC said. Farm laneways should also be restricted or secured.

A pressure washer or hose should be kept handy to wash tires and equipment, not only for on-farm equipment but for use on visiting service vehicles, the centre said.

If possible, the centre said, farmers should heat-treat barns and bedding before placing new chicks or poults. Heat treatment involves heating the barn and/or bedding to 30 C for at least three days before use.

A poultry farmer should “immediately” contact a veterinarian and his or her feather board if a farm’s birds show any signs of illness, the centre added.

“Good progress”

Ontario saw three farms — two turkey farms and a broiler breeder operation — infected with high-path H5N2 in April. British Columbia, where 11 commercial farms and two backyard flocks had avian flu infections in early 2015, was declared avian flu-free in June.

Barring any new cases during its required three-month surveillance period, Canada is on track to regain its status as free of high-path avian flu, as per World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards, by about the end of October.

In the U.S., where 223 farms in 15 states were hit by avian flu outbreaks between last December and mid-June this year, affecting over 48 million birds, the federal agriculture department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has now lifted all restrictions on poultry and poultry product traffic from 11 of those states.

The four remaining states — Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska — are “making good progress and control areas in those states are being removed, as they meet the time elements and other measures for release,” APHIS deputy administrator Dr. John Clifford said Monday in a report to the OIE.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has lifted its restrictions on travellers’ cross-border imports of live birds, raw poultry meat and eggs from seven of those 15 states as of Sept. 1.

CFIA’s cross-border restrictions remain in place on such products from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. Commercial-level imports to Canada are also still restricted from the avian flu quarantine zones in those eight states.

Such products pose no food safety risk, CFIA said, noting its limits are meant to keep avian flu from spreading to poultry into other parts of Canada. — Network


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