Bird flu confirmed at London-area farm: industry group

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A new strain of bird flu spreading around the globe has been found at a poultry farm in the Thamesford area, east of London, an industry group says.

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), said Monday the “highly pathogenic” H5N1 strain of avian flu has been found in two poultry flocks in southern Ontario.

The agency didn’t say where the avian flu was found in southern Ontario, but a group of poultry associations that run the emergency response to outbreaks said one farm is in the Thamesford area and the second is in the Waterloo/Wellington area.

“(Avian influenza) is spreading in wild bird populations across the globe and presents a significant national concern as birds migrate to Canada,” the agency said. “The CFIA continues to remind anyone with poultry or other susceptible birds to practice good biosecurity habits to protect them from infectious animal diseases.”

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The two farms have been placed under quarantine and movement control measures have been put in place, the agency said.

Area producers are moving quickly to protect their flocks by ensuring access to poultry houses is strictly controlled and equipment is cleaned and disinfected before being brought in.

The Egg Farmers of Ontario postponed its annual general meeting this week in response to the outbreak and sent an urgent message to members.

There have been outbreaks at commercial and non-commercial farms in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in recent months.

Last week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed avian flu in a wild red-tailed hawk in the Waterloo area.

Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs says bird flu is not a threat to food safety when proper handling and cooking occur.

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It also says avian Influenza is not a significant public health concern for healthy people who are not in regular contact with infected birds.

The Feather Board Command Centre, made up of the four poultry boards in Ontario, is in charge of the industry’s emergency response to outbreaks.

The center said the two outbreaks in southern Ontario are on poultry farms in Thamesford and in the Waterloo/Wellington area.

The head of the Feather Board Command Center could not be reached Monday for comment.

In 2015, federal and provincial spent months containing and eventually eradicating an H5N2 strain of the flu capable of killing entire flocks of birds within days.

At a cost of more than $5 million to taxpayers, according to documents obtained by Postmedia, the outbreak was limited to three farms in Oxford County.

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About 80,000 birds, mainly turkeys, were wiped out, with federal regulators slapping a strict quarantine on dozens of farms located in two control zones radiating out 10 kilometers each from the first two infected turkey operations in Oxford.

Other farmers in the containment zones had to get permits from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to move any people, vehicles, supplies or products on and off their property.

Tents, cleaning supplies and bright yellow hazardous material suits were visible at the commercial turkey farm where the disease first broke out, for months after it was declared.

Observers said the strict lockdown likely helped keep the virus at bay.

The same strain decimated chicken and turkey flakes in the US Midwest.

With a file from The Canadian Press

danbrown@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/DanatLFPress

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