December 03, 2014 - 4:05 PM
VANCOUVER - Two more farms in southwestern British Columbia have been placed under quarantine because they received chickens from a facility infected with avian influenza, though officials don't yet know whether any birds at the new sites actually have the virus.
The announcement brings to four the number of farms in B.C.'s Fraser Valley now under quarantine, and it comes as several Asian countries impose restrictions on poultry from the region.
A turkey farm in Abbotsford and a chicken farm in Chilliwack were quarantined earlier this week after birds at both sites tested positive for the H5 strain of the virus. A combined total of 18,000 birds at the farms have either died or will be euthanized.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it placed the additional two farms under quarantine after learning they had received chickens from the infected Chilliwack operation. One of the new farms is in Chilliwack, while the other is in Abbotsford. One of those two farms has also seen unexpected bird deaths.
Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, Canada's chief veterinary officer, said the food inspection agency is awaiting test results to confirm whether any birds at the farms are infected.
"This is just a suspicion," Kochhar said during a conference call with reporters.
"There is also a risk, given that there is an integrated poultry industry in the Fraser valley, that there might be situations where other at-risk farms are identified."
Officials are also waiting for test results that will determine which specific N-subtype of the virus they are dealing with. Of particular concern is whether the virus is the dangerous H5N1 strain or H5N8, which is currently affecting farms in the Netherlands.
Officials have cautioned that the virus does not pose a risk to consumers if poultry meat is properly handled and cooked, though in rare cases it can be transmitted to people who work in close contact with the animals.
Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan have all imposed varying restrictions on poultry from B.C.
Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety said it has banned all poultry meat and poultry products, including eggs, from the Fraser Valley region.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said Japan has placed restrictions on chicks originated from B.C. and on all Canadian poultry products.
The department said Taiwan has imposed trade restrictions on B.C. poultry and poultry products, while South Korea has banned the import of chicks from Canada.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. had not put in place any restrictions on poultry from B.C. or Canada.
Kochhar said it's possible other countries may follow suit, though he hoped for a balanced response.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014