Canada hopes massive cull will stop bird flu spread

British Columbia struggles with bird flu

April 5, 2004, Avian influenza has so far been found on eighteen commercial poultry farms in Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Canadian officials reported as they struggle to get the outbreaks under control.

“We cannot be certain at this time that we are on top of the situation. Further time will be required and we are working creatively, flexibly and passionately to consider new protocols and industry approaches,” Brian Evans, of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, was quoted by the Canadian Press as saying,

Evans said the disease had probably been brought to the region by wild waterfowl but was now being spread by human activity.

Around 400,000 chickens have been slaughtered already in a bid to halt the spread of the disease, but the latest discoveries are likely to lead to further culls.

Some poultry producers have suggested a cull of the entire poultry population of Fraser Valley, which would include around 16 million birds.

April 6, 2004, Hoping to stem the spread of bird flu, Canadian officials have order a massive cull that will affect around 80% of the British Columbia’s poultry producers. Around 19 million chickens and turkeys in Fraser Valley will be slaughtered.

The cull became necessary after the disease spread beyond a controlled hot-zone surrounding the first infected farms. Last week the disease spread to two farms outside the zone, and within days the number of infected farms rose to 18, many of which were outside the control zone.

Officials were struggling to catch up with the spread of the disease and a mass slaughter is the only realistic way to stop its spread, said Jim Clarke, a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as reported by the Associated Press.

Four of British Columbia’s poultry groups, BC Chicken Growers Association, BC Broiler Hatching Egg Producers, BC Egg Producers and BC Turkey Producers, said they supported the plans.

"Our main goal is to stamp out avian influenza and rebuild our industry," said Ray Nickel, president of the BC Poultry Committee. "Although these measures are drastic, we feel they are necessary to eradicate the disease among affected flocks. We will continue to work together with the CFIA and the provincial and federal government to implement these plans."

The British Columbia poultry industry has already lost C$10m (US$7.6m) to date due to avian influenza and the depopulation plan is expected to cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars. The poultry industry in British Columbia is worth more than C$800m (US$609.6m) per year and the bulk of production is situated in the Fraser Valley.

Poultry producers and processors have appealed to the provincial and federal governments for financial assistance to help the industry recover.

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