by SUSAN MANN
Ontario poultry farmers are being urged to keep a close eye on their birds — and ensure their biosecurity plans are in place — in the wake of the recent discovery of low pathogenic avian influenza in the American state of Missouri.
Tom Baker, incident commander of the Feather Board Command Centre in Ontario, said the organization is circulating a Canadian Food Inspection Agency April 29 advisory, urging industry participants to ensure they’re closely monitoring their biosecurity plans and following them to the letter.
The feather board command centre is the Ontario poultry industry’s disease management organization. Its members are: Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Turkey Farmers of Ontario, and the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg & Chick Commission.
The command centre’s emergency operations function has not been activated due to the virus discovery south of the border, Baker explained. The centre is, however, monitoring the situation in the U. S. fairly closely, and “reminding producers to make sure their excellent biosecurity plans are in place and are being followed carefully.”
The centre also talked to Ontario poultry industry participants, such as feed and chick suppliers, processors and other members of the value chain, “to make sure they’re practicing good biosecurity too.”
The virus on the Missouri turkey farm was discovered through U.S. government pre-slaughter surveillance testing but the birds didn’t show any signs of disease, Baker noted. A total of 39,000 turkeys from the farm were euthanized.
In Canada, Baker said, it’s the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that tests flocks before they go to slaughter, as part of the Canadian avian influence surveillance program.
Although the Missouri turkeys had low pathogenic avian influenza, Baker said they were euthanized due to concerns that strain could spread — or convert — to high pathogenic avian influenza.
Low pathogenic avian influenza doesn’t necessarily make birds sick, whereas the high pathogenic strains are very contagious and sicken and kill poultry. “The concern always is, if there is low pathogenic AI (avian influenza) in the environment, it can quickly mutate into high pathogenic (avian influenza),” he explained.
The virus found in Missouri is “often found in wild birds in North America,” he said. However, it’s not the same virus found in Ontario last year.
Last spring, the Ontario poultry industry dealt with three cases of high pathogenic avian influenza on poultry farms in the Oxford County-area. The command centre worked with CFIA officials to respond to the situation.
CFIA imposed quarantines that were in place for three months and set up two control zones around the farms with the virus. A total of 80,000 birds were euthanized.
Due to wild bird migrations in the spring and fall, there is an increased chance of the virus being introduced into the farm environment. “All it takes is someone to forget to change his or her boots, or bring in some contaminated equipment” for the virus to spread in a poultry operation, he explained. BF