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Unprecedented Avian Influenza Outbreak Raises Concerns for Poultry and Agriculture Industry

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, has been causing outbreaks in birds worldwide, including more than 7.2 million birds in Canada. The virus can sometimes spread from birds to humans, and while there have been more than 800 human cases reported worldwide, it is still considered rare and poses a low risk for the general public who have limited contact with infected animals.

Symptoms of avian flu in humans can mimic those of other common illnesses, such as fever, cough, aching muscles, and sore throat. Human infections with avian influenza A(H5N1) are rare and mostly occur after close contact with infected birds or highly contaminated environments such as poultry farms or live bird markets.

Photo by Edward Jenner

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada have emphasized that there is no evidence to suggest that eating thoroughly cooked poultry meat or eggs could transmit the avian influenza virus to humans. However, hunters of traditional foods, like wild geese and duck, and the people who prepare these foods may be at a higher risk, according to Health Canada. To help reduce any risk, the agency recommends Canadians cook game thoroughly to an internal temperature of approximately 71 C (160 F), and avoid direct contact with blood, feces, and respiratory secretions of all wild birds.

The poultry and egg industry in Canada is significant, with approximately 5,000 commercial producers raising over 790 million birds and producing over 803 million eggs for consumption in 2022. The CFIA has activated a response team of experts, including veterinarians, and administrative and field staff, to co-ordinate action with federal, provincial, and municipal partners and industries to help prevent the spread of the bird flu. The response includes thorough cleaning, disinfection, depopulation, and disease surveillance at infected premises, and placing "movement controls, such as quarantining" on infected areas to prevent the disease from spreading.

The CFIA also imposes strict requirements on the import of animals and animal products from countries where avian influenza is known to exist. The agency monitors the situation closely and responds to the presence of H5N1 HPAI in small flocks, commercial and non-commercial farms with birds across Canada. The response helps eliminate and prevent the spread of HPAI in poultry while minimizing the impact of the disease on Canadians and international trade.

In conclusion, the current global outbreak of avian influenza is a significant concern for the poultry and egg industry in Canada, as well as for public health. While the risk to the general public is low, precautions should still be taken to minimize the risk of infection. The CFIA and Health Canada are actively monitoring the situation and taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease. The industry and consumers alike should remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of avian influenza.

Copyright @ Artha Asia Agriculture 2023

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Photo by Edward Jenner:

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