by SUSAN MANN
More than 50 poultry farms remain under quarantine in Oxford County and Waterloo Region despite the Ontario poultry industry’s gradual return to standard operations starting this week.
But the quarantines will likely be lifted by the end of June if there are no new cases of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza strain. It was found last month on two turkey farms and one chicken broiler breeding operation, all in Oxford County. None of the other farms in the quarantine zones had the virus.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency installed two quarantine zones to minimize the disease’s spread. One is a 10 km radius around the first turkey farm near Woodstock confirmed to have the virus; the second is a 10 km radius around a chicken broiler breeding operation confirmed to have the virus, and that zone spans a portion of both Oxford County and Waterloo Region.
Poultry farmers in the quarantined zones can only move poultry and equipment on and off their operations with CFIA-issued licenses.
The quarantines and heightened biosecurity protocols won’t be lifted until CFIA approves, according to a May 19 press release from the Ontario industry’s disease management organization, Feather Board Command Centre. Under the current schedule “this could occur by the end of June,” the release says.
Gwen Zellen, Chicken Farmers of Ontario vice president of quality risk management and service operations, says as of today the three farms that had the virus have completed their in-barn composting and that “greatly reduces the risk (from the virus) in the zones.” The next step for the farmers with the virus is cleaning and disinfecting.
Zellen has also been working as the command centre’s liaison officer at the CFIA’s emergency operations centre in London.
It’s hard to peg down the continued risk to the poultry industry as the virus is still fairly new, she says. “There’s all sorts of research being done on it.”
The Ontario poultry industry already maintained strict standard biosecurity practices before the virus hit “but it is a new world with the migratory birds as an increased risk,” she notes. However, the mandatory standard biosecurity practices on farms “helped to protect our industry and has allowed the virus to be contained.”
Field staff from the three poultry boards and broiler hatching egg and chick commission are gradually returning to on-farm field visits outside the zones. Staff members are limited to visiting one farm per day and must follow strict biosecurity protocols.
The prohibition on board office visits and local farmer meetings has been lifted. But the command centre recommends “broader industry meetings beyond the local level should be postponed until mid-June,” the release says.
The avian influenza in Ontario is the same strain that’s circulating in the United States and affected British Columbian poultry farms in December 2014 and January 2015. In Ontario, CFIA euthanized more than 70,000 birds on the three farms with the virus. BF