Second avian flu control zone set up in SW Ontario

(Dave Bedard file photo)

A federal control zone has been officially set up for a 10-kilometre radius around the Oxford County chicken farm that’s home to Ontario’s second outbreak of H5N2 avian flu.

This control zone, which covers ground in both Oxford County and Waterloo County, is an “internationally accepted practice,” meant to allow export business to continue from non-infected areas of a country with avian flu outbreaks, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Wednesday.

The new zone — southwest of Kitchener, and northeast of the control zone around the Oxford County turkey farm confirmed April 7 with the same avian flu strain — will “continue to contribute to the alleviation of market access restrictions,” CFIA said.

Some trading partners, including the U.S. and European Union, have already recognized the second control zone; trade in Ontario poultry and poultry products outside the zones will be able to resume “shortly,” CFIA said.

All premises with poultry inside the new control zone are now under preventive quarantine and CFIA monitoring, the agency said — but added that the broiler breeder farm remains the only property in the new zone to show any signs of illness in birds.

An avian flu control zone restricts outbound movement of captive birds, eggs and/or poultry products, as well as feed, equipment and/or work clothes exposed to captive birds.

“We are working closely with industry and the remainder of our international partners to reaffirm continued trade based on ongoing effective control measures and certification requirements,” the agency said.

Planting equipment

The broiler farm, which had a total of about 27,000 birds in two barns, saw an outbreak in one barn starting last Wednesday, with about 1,000 birds dying of H5N2, CFIA told the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in a recent update.

As of Monday, the farm has been “depopulated” of all remaining birds, CFIA said.

Further sequencing of the virus at CFIA’s National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg has found the strain of H5N2 at the broiler farm to be “nearly identical” to the strain at the Oxford Country turkey farm — and the strain at 12 farms in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley in December, CFIA said.

Avian flu strains circulate in migratory wild birds and waterfowl, which pose a risk for spreading the disease, CFIA reiterated Wednesday. H5N2 outbreaks have also been confirmed at over five dozen U.S. commercial poultry operations, mainly turkey farms, across 12 states since January.

On top of other biosecurity measures, with spring planting almost or already underway, Ontario’s Feather Board Command Centre — the emergency services desk for the province’s poultry and egg boards — is also now urging farmers to keep tillage and planting equipment away from poultry barns.

The avian flu virus can survive for “extended periods” in the environment, particularly in cool weather, and equipment may be contaminated when used in fields frequented by wild birds, the FBCC said.

After using such equipment, farmers should wash their hands and change clothing and footwear before they enter any barns where poultry are housed, the centre said.

CFIA again stressed avian flu does not pose a risk to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked, and the flu virus rarely affects people who aren’t in “consistent contact” with infected birds.

Breakfast on the Farm

The second outbreak has, however, led to postponement for another farm-related event in the area — this time a “Breakfast on the Farm” event at a poultry farm near Embro, also in Oxford County.

The decision to put off the event to an as-yet undecided date was made on the advice of industry partners and discussion with the host farm family, organizer Farm and Food Care Ontario said.

The event, which until now had been set for June 6, would have offered “a significant outreach opportunity for Ontario’s farm community,” the group said, but “the organizing committee has determined the risk to the industry outweighs any potential benefits.”

“We look forward to rescheduling this great event once the risk of avian influenza no longer exists,” Sue McLarty, the group’s special events manager, said in a release. — Network


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