The Fraser Valley and the rest of Southern British Columbia will be considered free of bird flu if no more cases of the virus are found over the next 90 days, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
It has been three weeks since CFIA last detected a new case of the avian influenza. The highly pathogenic H5N2 strain has killed or prompted the destruction of 245,600 birds on a dozen farms in Abbotsford, Langley and Chilliwack.
In a statement released on its website, the CFIA said that all the infected premises have now been “depopulated,” and that it is “monitoring the progress of disposal of dead birds, and cleaning and disinfection of barns, vehicles, equipment and tools…”
Barring the discovery of the virus on another farm, the CFIA says “disease control measures will remain in place for 21 days after the cleaning and disinfection of all confirmed infected premises is complete.”
Those measures include permits for the transportation of poultry.
BC Poultry Association president Ray Nickel said things are also getting back to normal at poultry farms within the one-kilometre zone surrounding sites that had completed the composting of infected materials.
Those farms that had not been infected by the flu but had been forbidden from restocking their barns, can now bring new birds on site, Nickel said.
“The industry feels good about what the current status is,” he said. “We’ve got farms that are in full recovery now.”
At least seven of the infected farms had completed the composting process by late last week, with the rest expected to be finished and receive CFIA sign-off within the next seven days, Nickel said.
“We are feeling a lot better than we did three weeks ago, as far as the containment side of it,” Nickel said. With the virus having an incubation period of between two and six days, he said the industry is confident that the farm-to-farm spread of the virus has been halted.
The CFIA said “strict surveillance” will continue in affected areas over the next three months, after which the area would be considered free of the virus.
The CFIA reiterated that “Avian influenza viruses do not pose risks to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked.”
Nickel echoed those statements, and said consumers seem to have received that message during the Christmas turkey season.
Sales of frozen turkeys were up, he said, which reflected some concern about the supply of poultry.
But he said total sales of turkeys were in line with previous years and showed the public had little fear of eating poultry.
While a definitive cause of the B.C. outbreak has not been revealed, local poultry farmers have been told that migratory birds most likely brought the virus.