Avian influenza detected in non-commercial chicken flock southwest of Moncton

·3 min read
Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected at a small flock poultry operation in Turtle Creek, a small community about 20 kilometres south of Moncton. (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters - image credit)
Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected at a small flock poultry operation in Turtle Creek, a small community about 20 kilometres south of Moncton. (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters - image credit)

A highly transmissible and deadly variant of avian influenza has turned up in a small flock of chickens in southeastern New Brunswick.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's website shows the highly pathogenic avian influenza — or H5N1 — was detected last Monday in the Turtle Creek area, about 20 kilometres southwest of Moncton.

The agency describes the premises where the disease was found as "small flock," meaning the chickens are kept on "private property that is not designated as a commercial flock."

An online map shows the "infected zone" where the disease was detected, along with a "primary control zone" encircling it.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, no birds, bird products or byproducts can be moved into, out of, within or a primary control zone without permission.

Movement of live birds into the infected zone is prohibited until the disease is determined to be under control within the primary control zone. At that time, movements can be considered under the restrictions of a specific permit.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

In an email to CBC News, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the outbreak affected fewer than 100 chickens.

The agency said any chickens that didn't die from avian influenza were humanely destroyed and disposed of to prevent the spread of disease.

The detection of H5N1 in Turtle Creek is the first to hit farmed poultry in New Brunswick since the disease began sweeping across Canada in recent months.

The disease, however, has been detected in wild birds in New Brunswick, which the agency says it suspects caused the Turtle Creek outbreak.

"Scientific evidence indicates that the virus circulates naturally in wild birds, and is spread through migratory birds. Highly pathogenic AI is worldwide and outbreaks are currently occurring in the United States and other countries in Asia and Europe."

In March, the Canadian Wildlife Service announced a case was confirmed in a greater black-backed gull in Riverview, which is about 20 kilometres from where it's been more recently detected.

The disease has since turned up in other wild bird species in New Brunswick, including Canada goose, mallard and American crow.

The spread among wild birds has led experts to advise people to either take down or frequently clean backyard bird feeders.

Watch: Avian influenza cases on the rise in Canada

Most forms of avian flu are mild but the H5N1 strain can cause serious disease and death in wild and domestic birds.

The disease is not considered a significant concern for humans but infections can wipe out a flock in a matter of days.

With no treatment, an entire flock must be destroyed to ensure the infection is contained.

N.B. outbreak not huge concern, says industry rep

Lisa Bishop-Spencer, spokesperson for Chicken Farmers of Canada, said the Turtle Creek outbreak is not a huge concern to her given it's not at a commercial operation.

However, the speed at which the disease has spread shows the need for poultry and egg producers to take precautions with their operations, she said.

Zoom/CBC
Zoom/CBC

"So we need to take precautions to make sure that it not only doesn't spread to commercial flocks, but that it doesn't spread at all, so the important thing for us right now is to help set up those [primary control] zones," she said.

Bishop-Spencer said a primary control zone covers about a 10-kilometre radius, which subjects any poultry producers to heightened rules.

"So if there was a poultry operation in that area, the farmer would have to take extra bio-security measures; doing things like hosing down and washing the tires and the wheel wells of any truck that comes onto his property."

As for the general public, Bishop-Spencer said commercial poultry products remain safe to consume.

"At this point, I think it's just important that, you know, everybody's aware and alert, but I don't think anybody needs to be alarmed."

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