Highly-pathogenic avian influenza cases showing up along East Coast

(source: Scott Moore/Flickr; CC BY-NC 2.0)

Update: On February 4, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it had confirmed the presence of high pathogenic avian influenza (AI), subtype H5N1, in a commercial flock in western Nova Scotia and notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) of the positive AI finding. Initial tests were conducted on January 30 after the farm experienced sudden deaths of birds over several days. On February 3, the CFIA said it had also confirmed the H5N1 in a backyard flock in eastern Nova Scotia. Since this flock does not produce birds for sale, it was considered a “non-poultry” detection.

Poultry producers and owners are being reminded to follow strong biosecurity measures as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed its third case in less than two months of highly-pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in Atlantic Canada.

The initial finding in a non-commercial flock in Newfoundland in December marked the first time the specific H5 virus had been identified in the Americas since 2015, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE.)

Since then, the CFIA has confirmed a second positive case in Newfoundland, and on Friday, January 28, a third H5N1 case was identified near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The latest case involved a Canada goose in the Grand Desert area of Halifax Regional Municipality, according to a news release from Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables.

Following the positive case in Nova Scotia, the CFIA has quarantined two farms as a precautionary measure and sent samples to the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease (NCFAD) in Winnipeg for testing.

There have also been several cases of H5N1 avian influenza in the eastern U.S. in the last month.

On January 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said it had confirmed the first highly-pathogenic Eurasian H5 case in the country since 2016 in a wild American wigeon in South Carolina. Additional cases have since been found in wild birds in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The cases in the Atlantic flyway region of North America are raising concerns about — and confirming the global spread of — a virus that has caused widespread avian influenza outbreaks throughout Europe and Asia over the past year.

Producers are being reminded to have the following biosecurity measures in place:

  • Minimize direct contact between poultry farms and prevent contact with wild birds;
  • Avoid non-essential visitors on your farm premises and barns;
  • Change footwear when entering the areas with birds and don’t bring contaminated clothing and equipment into areas with birds;
  • Monitor flock health including mortalities, feed and water consumption, and any abnormal bird behavior;
  • Consult your veterinarian immediately in cases of unexplained mortality or flock illness.
  • Do not handle dead wild birds. Report dead wild bird sightings in Canada to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-866-544-4744.

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