The European Union and 30 countries have restricted Canadian poultry and egg imports after this year’s deadly avian flu infects flocks in nearly every province, according to an industry lobby group.
The Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council said in an e-mail that trade restrictions vary in scope, with some countries banning all imports from Canada and others limiting restrictions to affected provinces. According to CPEPC President Jean-Michel Laurin, the European Union and the United States have put in place measures that only apply to products from an area of 10 kilometers around each infected farm.
According to the most recent figures from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, about 1.37 million birds in Canada have died from the pathogen or killed since the H5N1 strain hit this country in December. Experts stress that the food supply is secure and that the domestic supply chain is not under pressure. The H5N1 virus rarely infects humans, and when it does the symptoms are usually limited to conjunctivitis or mild respiratory disease.
The CFIA said on its website that it has identified 71 sites in the country where H5N1 Found out. Cases have been reported in every province except Prince Edward Island. The outbreak is also affecting poultry in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Avian flu is easily transmitted through feces and respiratory secretions of birds. Migratory birds can carry the virus. Canada’s poultry industry instituted biosecurity measures to limit spread between farms after more than 16 million birds were killed in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. A previous outbreak in 2004.
So far this year, the damage has been minimal. In Canada’s egg sector, about 0.17 percent of commercial egg-laying hens and 0.17 percent of commercial egg farms have been affected by the flu, according to the CPEPC. In the US, about 8.7 percent of commercial laying hens have been affected, the organization said.
“We don’t really know what’s next,” Mr Laurin said.
Some countries have banned all Canadian poultry products — live, fresh, frozen and cooked — while others have focused on specific birds or products, he said.
Lisa Bishop-Spencer, spokeswoman for Chicken Farmers of Canada, said only 5 to 11 percent of domestic production is earmarked for export.
He said investigators identified the first Canadian cases of avian flu in Ontario in 1966. After that initial outbreak, the virus was not seen again in this country until 2004, BC.
Since that devastating wave, farmers have been able to better prepare for the virus. Ms Bishop-Spencer said biosafety measures, such as closing off tire and wheel wells on vehicles at farm gates, have helped prevent the spread between operations. Farmers also take measures within their properties, such as assigning specific footwear to certain areas.
This is the first year that avian flu has affected several provinces at the same time, Ms Bishop-Spencer said. He said that this year the viral load in migratory birds is very high.
“What we’re not seeing this year is … there’s a lot of spread from farm to farm,” she said. “It looks like it’s all coming from wild birds.”
While the industry as a whole is coping with the outbreak, the virus has crushed individual producers with infected swarms. In Alberta, 23 locations had been infected as of May 3, with producers losing nearly 600,000 birds by April 28. Alberta has more infected sites than any other province, and the most dead birds, according to CFIA data.
In April, BC ordered commercial poultry farmers with more than 100 birds to move their flocks indoors until spring migration ends in May. By April 28, the province had lost 50,000 birds at the two infected sites. It now counts five infection sites.
The CFIA advises owners of small flocks and pet birds to limit them until the end of the migration period, to prevent contact with wild birds and reduce the risk of disease transmission.
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