The Situation last December - Credit CFIA
Given all that has happened, it is hard to believe it hasn’t quite been 11 months since HPAI H5 made its first appearance in North America (see Fraser Valley B.C. Culling Poultry After Detecting H5 Avian Flu). This was followed two weeks later by the announcement from OIE/APHIS: HPAI H5N8 & H5N2 Detected In Washington State Wild Birds.
From there HPAI H5N8 – which appears to have arrived from Korea via migratory birds – and its reassortant progeny (H5N1 & H5N2) began their inexorable spread across the United States, sparking the largest and most expensive bird flu outbreak in North American history.
The parental HPAI H5N8 virus, which only appeared on our radar screens in January of 2014 when it emerged in South Korea, had managed to do what the H5N1 virus had been unable to for over a decade; it made the intercontinental jump from Asia to the Americas.
Unlike H5N1, this HPAI H5N8 (and its reassortants) haven’t been shown to infect, or sicken, humans.
As they are related to viruses that can (i.e. H5N6, H5N1), they must be monitored for any changes in their behavior, and the CDC has issued guidance via their HAN:HPAI H5 Exposure, Human Health Investigations & Response. For now, however, the risk to human health is considered low.
These viruses, nonetheless, represent an enormous threat to the poultry industry, and literally caused billions of dollars of losses during our first bout with them. The repercussions in our food prices continue months after the last outbreak.
Canada, which has dealt with several high-profile avian flu outbreaks in recent years – was able to contain their B.C. outbreak - and only saw limited bird flu activity elsewhere (Ontario). Like the United States, Canada is gearing up for the expected return of HPAI later this fall.
This from Canada’s CFIA.
October 22, 2015, Ottawa: There is a significant threat of the re-emergence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the fall of 2015 that has the potential to negatively impact the health and welfare of poultry. The implementation of preventative biosecurity practices can reduce this risk.
In 2014–2015, HPAI resulted in the depopulation of approximately 250,000 birds in Canada, in addition to more than 47.5 million chickens and 7.1 million turkeys in the United States (U.S.). In Canada, HPAI was found in 3 commercial flocks in Ontario, as well as 11 commercial and 2 backyard flocks in British Columbia; HPAI was also found in 223 premises in the U.S.
Biosecurity is the poultry industry's first line of defence against all infectious avian disease, including HPAI.
Wild birds, particularly waterfowl, are known to carry Avian Influenza viruses. While the viruses often do not cause illness in waterfowl or humans, certain strains can cause severe illness and death in domestic poultry and wild birds such as raptors, pheasants and grouse. Although wild birds always pose a risk of disease to domestic poultry, past surveillance has identified the highest prevalence of influenza virus to be in younger migratory waterfowl in the fall (August – November) as they congregate in feeding and staging areas prior to and during migration. Massive movement of wild birds during migration increases the risk of potential Avian Influenza virus in poultry farms. The virus can be spread to domestic poultry through direct contact with wild birds or their droppings and secretions. With cooler and damper fall weather, the virus can survive for longer periods in the environment, which increases the risk of transmission.
Minimizing direct contact between poultry and wild birds, as well as preventing potentially contaminated footwear, clothing and equipment from entering production areas, is of primary importance in protecting the health and welfare of your birds. All poultry owners should evaluate their farms and activities based on risk factors that could contribute to Avian Influenza and other poultry disease.
Risk factors may include:
- Lack of biosecurity protocols requiring the use of protective and designated clothing and equipment within the farm and between farms;
- The presence of waterfowl and waterfowl attractants on, or in close proximity to, the farm;
- Poultry that are housed outside or have outdoor access;
- The introduction of poultry from other farms;
- The use of shared equipment between farms; and
- Environmental conditions or geographic features creating biosecurity challenges or breaches – a barn flooding for example.
Poultry producers should implement routine biosecurity measures throughout the year and increase the focus on compliance to biosecurity protocols during high-risk periods. The current threat of HPAI increases the importance of creating a barrier between the inside of the poultry barn and everything exterior to it. Particular attention to the following biosecurity measures is recommended:
- Prevent wild birds, particularly waterfowl, from contacting poultry, feed and water.
- Deter wild birds from the premises to minimize the potential of farmyard fecal contamination.
- Prevent wild birds from accessing housing areas by maintaining the buildings in good repair and eliminating access points with tight-fitting doors and screened ventilation.
- Prevent non-essential access to the premises, lock doors and gates, and post signage to direct visitors away from the barn to a designated location such as the office.
- Restrict access to bird housing to essential personnel only. Depending on your type of production, the bird housing area may also be known as the production area, restricted area or restricted access zone.
- Remove mortalities daily. Handle and store mortalities appropriately to reduce the risk of pathogen spread.
- Ensure biosecurity measures are implemented by all personnel prior to entry to bird housing. This includes a "clean entry" into the housing area. Only designated clothing (footwear and coveralls) should enter a housing area. Clothing should be production specific and not used in other production areas within a barn or other barns on the premises.
- Ensure biosecurity protocols are implemented to minimize the risk associated with the movement of people, live birds, equipment and vehicles on, within, and off premises.
Birds with outdoor access increase the risk of contact with wild birds and exposure to Avian Influenza viruses. Measures can be taken to reduce this risk, including:
- Preventing wild birds' access to feed and water;
- Rotating feeding and outdoor access schedules;
- Discouraging wild birds from co-mingling with your flock by installing deterrents (deterrents must be changed and moved regularly to be effective);
- Minimizing direct contact by using netting or pasture frames and ensuring the barrier is secure, with no holes.
Commercial producers, backyard flock owners and bird keepers should immediately contact their veterinarian, the provincial Ministry of Agriculture, or a local CFIA office if they suspect their birds may be infected with Avian Influenza.
Canada's wild bird survey is part of global efforts to detect HPAI viruses that could threaten human and animal health, and to identify and monitor changes in Avian Influenza viruses circulating in wild birds. The survey is an important part of Canada's Avian Influenza prevention and preparedness strategy.
If you find a dead wild bird on or around your property, you are encouraged to contact the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) at 1-866-544-4744 or visit the CWHC website.
Additional avian biosecurity and Avian Influenza information can be accessed at How to Prevent and Detect Disease in Backyard Flocks and Pet Birds, Strengthen On-Farm Biosecurity During Wild Bird Migration and Avian Biosecurity – Protect Poultry, Prevent Disease , or by contacting your veterinarian and provincial boards.