by SUSAN MANN
The Ontario poultry industry’s disease management organization is urging Niagara Region farmers to step up their biosecurity measures after a federal government agency confirmed low pathogenic avian influenza on a St. Catharines-area commercial duck farm.
The organization, the Feather Board Command Centre, issued two advisories Thursday — one to poultry farmers, including registered small flock producers and owners of other domesticated birds, and another one to industry stakeholders in Niagara Region.
Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Turkey Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission are all part of the centre.
The marketing boards activated the centre and issued the advisories after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the presence of H5N2 avian influenza on the farm. CFIA has also quarantined the farm.
In an audio clip of a technical briefing Friday, Harpreet Kochhar, the agency’s chief veterinary officer, says 14,000 birds on the farm are slated for euthanization and disposal.
Kochhar says low pathogenic avian influenza causes mild illness in birds “and is aligned to the North American lineage that we have seen circulating in previous outbreaks.”
As part of the agency’s investigation into the outbreak, staff has started tracing movements of birds, bird products and equipment on and off the property.
“This information will help determine the surrounding surveillance zone for further testing and movement control measures,” he says. “As avian influenza is highly contagious among birds and can spread rapidly, it is possible that additional at-risk farms may be identified in the coming days.”
The agency will advise the poultry industry and the public “if additional farms are confirmed to be affected,” he says.
The agency has established a three-kilometre zone around the farm, says a July 8 update from the Feather Board Command Centre.
All poultry and small flock growers within the zone will have flocks tested and be required to follow restrictions on the placing and shipping of birds. Licenses will be required to move poultry in and out of the zone.
Farms outside the zone can continue business as usual but must follow heightened biosecurity protocols.
One broiler and 23 small flock operations are in the restricted zone, indicates Command Centre preliminary analysis.
The agency’s July 7 news release says the province of Ontario will provide technical support on carcass disposal.
Once the birds are removed, the agency will oversee the farmer’s cleaning and disinfecting of barns, equipment, vehicles and tools to “eliminate any infectious material that may remain,” the release says.
The Command Centre advises poultry producers to adopt heightened biosecurity procedures immediately, including:
- Monitoring movements on and off farms.
- Ensuring each person entering barns puts on clean footwear and follows biosecurity protocols.
- Restricting visits to other poultry production sites and avoiding co-mingling birds or having contact with outside or wild birds.
- Avoiding exchanging equipment with other poultry production sites.
- Ensuring all vehicles and farm equipment that go into barns are properly washed and disinfected and that the farm laneway is restricted and secured.
- Ensuring farm workers have adequate training in biosecurity disease prevention.
- Making sure there is adequate control of wild birds and rodents.
- Having a pressure washer or hose handy to wash the tires and equipment of all service vehicles.
- Keeping a logbook of movements on and off the farm.
Egg Farmers of Ontario public affairs director Bill Mitchell says CFIA advised the poultry industry of the situation on Thursday.
The centre issued biosecurity advisories to producers and industry before learning the outbreak was low pathogenic avian influenza.
“We don’t wait (for all of the details to be released). We tell people there’s a suspect case and they need to go to heightened biosecurity,” Mitchell says.
Even though duck producers aren’t represented on the feather board command centre, he says the advisory was sent out to all bird producers, including small flock farmers and owners of other domesticated birds in Niagara Region.
Last year, more than 50 poultry farms in Oxford County and Waterloo Region were quarantined for three months after CFIA confirmed high pathogenic avian influenza on two turkey farms and one broiler-breeder operation. About 80,000 birds were euthanized in that outbreak.
CFIA says in its release avian influenza doesn’t pose a risk to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked, and the disease rarely affects humans. BF