Two new Fraser Valley farms have been placed under quarantine as tests are done to determine whether birds there have been infected by the H5 influenza virus discovered earlier this week at farms in Abbotsford and Chilliwack.
One of the farms is located in Abbotsford, the other is in Chilliwack.
Officials say they haven’t confirmed the flu’s presence at the two broiler breeder chicken farms, and only one has seen higher-than-expected mortality numbers in recent days. The numbers of birds affected or on site at the two farms is also not yet known.
In a Wednesday teleconference, officials said the two farms both received birds from a farm where avian influenza was discovered earlier this week.
On Tuesday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed that H5 avian influenza had been found at a turkey farm on the Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford and a broiler breeder chicken farm in Chilliwack following a large number of bird deaths at the two sites over the weekend.
By Tuesday’s announcement, half of the Abbotsford’s farm’s 11,000 birds had already died, while 1,000 of the 7,000 chickens at the Chilliwack site had perished. The rest will be destroyed.
“The present mortality does tell us it is a very virulent virus,” the CFIA’s chief veterinary officer, Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, said Wednesday.
Further testing is underway to determine the strain of the influenza and its pathogenicity (the severity of the illness in birds), but Dr. Jane Pritchard, chief veterinarian officer with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, said officials are treating it as if it was a high path strain.
It’s not yet known how the virus made its way onto the original affected farms.
Birds from the first broiler breeder farm where the flu was detected were moved to the two newly quarantined sites on Friday, officials said.
Pritchard said that when the birds were brought in for testing on Monday, there were no visible signs of flu on the birds and tests for influenza were only conducted as a matter of protocol. She said officials suspected a bird management or a feed problem had led to the death and were surprised when the influenza test came back positive.
Also on Wednesday, Hong Kong announced that it had banned poultry meat and eggs from the Fraser Valley following the discovery of avian flu at farms in Chilliwack and Abbotsford.
The city’s Centre for Food Safety announced Wednesday that it had banned poultry products “from the district with immediate effect for the protection of Hong Kong’s public health.”
The CFS said in a press release that it imported more than 7,000 tonnes of frozen poultry meat and about 170,000 eggs from Canada between January and October.
“The CFS has contacted the Canadian authority over the issue and will closely monitor information issued by the World Organisation for Animal Health on avian influenza outbreak in the country,” it said in a release. “Appropriate action will be taken in response to the development of the situation.”
Hong Kong has also recently banned poultry products from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom following avian flu outbreaks in those countries, according to the website globalmeatnews.com.
Reuters has also reported that South Korea has banned imports of Canadian Chicks, Japan has banned the importation of B.C. chicks, and Taiwan has imposed restrictions on B.C. poultry products.
The CFIA said avian flu does not “pose risks to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked” and that the disease rarely affects humans not in contact with afflicted birds.
The turkeys were at an age at which they would likely have been destined for Christmas dinner tables.
Watch abbynews.com for more information as it becomes available.