Authorities Confirm Bird Flu at Canadian Turkey Farm

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed an H5 avian influenza outbreak on a turkey farm near Vancouver and as many as 60,000 birds on the farm stand to be culled.

The good news is that the strain of bird flu detected on the farm appeared to be a less virulent one and posed little risk to humans. "Nobody has been infected by the virus," said Elizabeth Brodkin, medical officer of the Fraser Health Authority.

The CFIA said the strain in this case is of low pathogenicity, which refers to the severity of the bird's virus. They added that preliminary tests have indicated that it was a low pathogenic strain though further tests will be done to determine the precise subtype and stain of the virus.

In a news release the organization reported that the affected birds on the Abbotsford, British Columbia farm will be humanely euthanized to ensure the avian influenza virus does not spread to other farms and the cleaning and disinfection of the farm would be conducted under their supervision. Twenty-three other farms in a three-kilometer radius of the infected farm have been quarantined while officials ensure their flocks have not been infected.

There are multiple subtypes of the H5 avian flu and the N in a flu virus's name stands for the virus's neuraminidase subtype. The H5N1 strain of the virus which is responsible for 252 human deaths since 2003 according to the World Health Organization can infect people. Usually low path viruses result in only a drop in egg production but a high path virus can wipe out an entire poultry operation as the entire flock has to be culled in order to extinguish the outbreak. Avian influenza is not new to the area and in 2005 the Fraser Valley suffered an outbreak of H5N2 avian influenza while in Feb. 2004, 17 million birds were slaughtered in the Fraser Valley following an outbreak of H7N3, a different subtype of avian influenza. There were no human illnesses in either outbreak.

The CFIA said avian influenza rarely infects humans unless they have been in close contact with the infected birds. The one man who was in close contact with the infected birds is under close medical supervision to watch for any developments. CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber told CTV Newsnet Saturday afternoon that no recalls of any meat products from the farm are expected and as long as poultry products are properly cooked there is no threat from avian viruses to food. Other farms in the area will have their birds extensively tested before they can put their product to market.