Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

November 19, 2005 15:47 ET

Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Highly Pathogenic Asian Strain Of Avian Influenza Not Detected In Wild Birds

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 19, 2005) - The Government of Canada today announced that the wild birds from Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia tested as part of a national wild bird survey are free of the strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza responsible for animal and human illness in Southeast Asia.

Molecular testing of samples collected from the three provinces ruled out the Asian strain of avian influenza and confirmed that the viruses are low pathogenic. Further analysis definitively identified the presence of low-pathogenic North American subtypes H5N3 in Quebec birds, H5N1 in Manitoba, and H5N9 and H5N2 in British Columbia.

These subtypes have been previously observed in North America and none are of significant concern from an animal health perspective with biosecurity measures already in effect. The Public Health Agency of Canada has been working with the CFIA on the testing and has determined that there is no information in these findings suggesting a new threat to human health.

The national wild bird survey includes samples taken from migratory birds along significant flyways in seven provinces, including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta. Ontario has completed preliminary screening and samples identified as H5 are now undergoing confirmatory testing at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Diseases in Winnipeg.

Animal and human health specialists from the federal government will examine subtypes from the four remaining provinces to rule out the Asian H5N1 strain and determine pathogenicity. Results will be posted on the CFIA's Website. The Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, the lead organization responsible for the wild bird survey, will continue to study various virus subtypes. This research will enable wild life health authorities to gain a deeper understanding of the levels and subtypes of influenza viruses circulating in wild birds North America.

While the survey findings to date are reassuring, the Government of Canada is committed to further reinforcing Canada's ability to detect any signs of disease at the earliest possible moment. To that end, the CFIA will pursue the following action plan:

- First, the CFIA will work with the Canadian wildlife and animal health communities to expand the monitoring program to identify AI as a cause of die-off of wild birds in the areas sampled in the survey.

- Second, the CFIA is implementing a national serological survey of commercial birds at poultry processing plants. Again, the survey will allow us to monitor bird health.

- We will continue to work closely with the poultry industry to raise awareness of the need for effective on-farm biosecurity measures. We need to keep AI out of domestic poultry operations where it has the potential to be highly pathogenic. This potential has always existed, which is why strict biosecurity measures in farming operations are essential.

Avian influenza virus is commonly found around the world in wild birds. To date, the findings of this survey indicate that virus subtypes of significant concern are not present in migratory birds crossing Canada. Nonetheless, bird owners must continue to follow strict biosecurity practices to reduce the risk of disease in their flocks. Precautions should be taken to ensure that domestic birds and the feed, water and equipment used in domestic bird operations are not exposed to wild birds.

The consumption of poultry meat and products which are prepared in accordance with standard practices of food safety do not pose a risk. Persons handling wild birds should follow routine hand washing and safe food preparation practices. These include disinfecting surfaces, being careful to avoid cross contamination with other food products, keeping raw meat away from other food utensils, and thoroughly cooking all wild birds prior to eating. Following these steps is good practice to minimize risks associated with the handling and preparation of wild fowl.

Contact Information

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
    Media relations
    (613) 228-6682
    Public Health Agency of Canada
    Media Relations
    (613) 954-8528
    Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre
    (306) 966-5099
    National Information Line: 1-800-567-2033