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Canada regains avian flu-free status

Updated, June 29 — Canada is once again disease-free for notifiable avian influenza, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The return of the country’s disease-free status for avian flu, based on the standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), follows the “successful elimination” of an outbreak of avian flu discovered in January in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley.

Low-pathogenicity (“low-path”) H5N2 bird flu was reported in an Abbotsford-area commercial poultry operation on Jan. 24, and was confirmed on a second nearby operation Feb. 11.

All birds on both farms were gassed and composted on-site. In all, 45 area farms that were near the infected properties, or that were connected by shared equipment or other contact, saw movement restrictions imposed on their birds or bird products after avian flu was found on the two farms.

Once the flu outbreak was quarantined, contained and eliminated, the CFIA conducted “targeted, enhanced surveillance” for three months and no new cases were detected.

That result would “allow Canada to regain its status as an avian influenza-free country,” CFIA said in early April, when all the restricted farms were again free to move birds and/or bird products.

And Canada also gets to keep its OIE status as free of highly pathogenic (“high-path”) bird flu, which it regained in April 2008 after cleanup of an outbreak of H7N3 on a poultry farm near Regina Beach, Sask.

“The province learned a lot from the avian influenza incidents of 2004 and 2005. We want to thank our federal counterparts at the CFIA and all parties involved for their outstanding contributions during the recent outbreak,” B.C. Agriculture Minister Steve Thomson said in a separate release Saturday.

“The poultry industry is worth $2.65 billion to the economy of British Columbia and as a result of this co-operation we were able to minimize the impact to industry and get 53 affected farms promptly back to business.”

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