140,000 B.C. chickens and turkeys lost to avian flu outbreak

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This holiday season, poultry from British Columbia is probably not going to get an invite to your dinner table. An outbreak of avian flu has hit five Fraser Valley farms, and an estimated 140,000 birds are being euthanized.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirms that the five farms are under quarantine, adding that this weekend the CFIA “began humanely euthanizing and disposing of all birds on the infected premises of one of the farms in accordance with provincial environmental regulations and internationally accepted disease control guidelines and will continue over the coming days.”

CFIA Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Harpreet Kochhar says the Canadian government will compensate the farms for each of the destroyed birds, reports CBC.

Up to 90 more poultry farms “fall within the three-kilometre-wide quarantine zones established around the infected farms,” notes the National Post. Farmers are being urged to take an active role in protecting their flocks, and to come forward to report any suspicious symptoms.

The outbreak began last week with an Abbotsford turkey farm and a Chilliwack chicken farm, when it became immediately clear the birds’ high mortality rate was due to a “high pathogen” strain of the virus.

As a result of the B.C. avian flu outbreak in the Fraser Valley, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, South Africa and Mexico have banned poultry imports from B.C. or Canada altogether.

It’s also possible that the widespread reach of the virus and the loss of birds will force B.C. to look to our neighbours to the east in Alberta, and possibly even Manitoba, to bring in poultry for the holiday season.

The CFIA points out that what’s happening with the birds does not present a significant concern for human health:

Avian influenza viruses do not pose risks to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked. Avian influenza rarely affects humans that do not have consistent contact with infected birds.

Featured image: Flock of turkeys via Shutterstock

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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