Bird Flu Hits Canada Turkey Farm

WINNIPEG — A turkey farm in Manitoba has been quarantined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency after several birds tested positive for an H5 strain of bird flu, officials said Wednesday.

Provincial officials stressed there is no evidence it is the Asian strain of the potentially dangerous H5N1 influenza, as that strain has not been found in North America.

Presently, there is no indication of any human illness. Workers at the breeding operation, located in the Rural Municipality of Rockwood, are being contacted and offered preventive anti-virals.

None of the turkeys has died because of the illness. It was detected after the producer noticed some birds were not laying eggs.

Turkeys from the operation do not end up in the food chain; the farm produces eggs, which go to turkey growers.

Provincial officials said the risk of any impact on humans is considered very low at this time and that consumption of turkey products continues to be safe if the meat is properly prepared and cooked.

There are 8,200 birds on the property. They will be culled.

The Rural Municipality of Rockwood is 40 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is leading the investigation into how the strain infected the turkeys. It’s possible it was transferred by wild birds, officials said. This is the first time the H5 strain has been detected at a Manitoba farm.

The discovery comes almost two months after Manitoba required all livestock and poultry producers to register their farms to help authorities quickly deal with animal and public health emergencies.

The initiative, which is being replicated in other provinces, is also seen as a key component in developing a national food-traceability program that will assure wary consumers — here and abroad — that what they eat is safe.

An estimated 20,000 farm owners and operators have to supply their legal land location and emergency contact information, as well as the types of animals they keep on their property.

Other businesses that handle animals, from hatcheries and rendering plants to petting zoos and veterinary hospitals, will also have to register their premises.

One of the program’s primary benefits will be to allow authorities to act quickly to limit the scope and harm from a serious animal disease outbreak.

In the case of avian flu, for instance, officials would immediately be able to pinpoint the location of all the province’s poultry operations.

An outbreak in British Columbia in 2004 forced the destruction of flocks on 1,000 commercial and “backyard” farms.

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