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Welcome to your Digital Newsletter – The CFIA Chronicle

Your quarterly business update – Winter 2017

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Tackling Bird Flu

On-farm prevention is vital; response to an outbreak needs to be effective; and risk mitigation is key

Producers, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and our many partners play important roles in preventing and eradicating infectious disease in Canada. This article describes how flock owners can help prevent avian influenza, how the CFIA responds to disease outbreaks, and how the Agency and partners work to limit the risk of a wide-spread outbreak in Canada.

Flock Owner Prevention

Image of 2 signs: Do not enter – Biosecure area, the other in French

Flock owners across Canada understand the importance of preventing avian influenza (AI). Although the virus is rarely transmitted to humans, it can have devastating effects on a farmer's birds; that's why biosecurity practices are so vital.

Biosecurity can be defined as steps put in place by farmers to protect their animals and avoid the spreading of disease. For example, the CFIA urges poultry farmers to:

  • Control visitor access to the barns and the birds;
  • Wash their hands, barn (or flock) designated boots and coveralls when entering flock housing areas;
  • Prevent other animals from contacting the flock;
  • Schedule the introduction of new birds in a way to avoid contact with other birds on-site (isolate new birds);
  • Monitor flock health daily;
  • Routinely clean all that comes into contact with their birds; and
  • Train all staff in the application of a strict biosecurity program.

Putting strict biosecurity measures in place can take time but many of the steps to keeping a healthy flock are inexpensive, easy to follow, become habitual and are well worth it.

If you own a flock and would like to improve your biosecurity measures, visit our AI page for tips.

CFIA Response to an Outbreak

If AI occurs on a premises despite biosecurity practices, the CFIA must respond quickly to limit the spread of the disease to other premises.

In 2014-2015, there was an outbreak in British Columbia and another in Ontario; more recently, there was an outbreak on a duck farm near St. Catharines, Ontario. Currently, both provinces are declared free of notifiable AI in domestic poultry populations.

Detailed response plans, developed by the CFIA in collaboration with its partners, are in place for: minimizing the spread of the virus; restricting movement of susceptible livestock and products; protecting the health of staff deployed; protecting the public; and capturing and analysing information during an outbreak.

For an effective and efficient response, the CFIA works with federal, provincial, academic and industry partners. The lead department or agency in the event of an AI outbreak is scenario dependant. If the scenario only involves animal health with the AI strains covered by the CFIA mandate, the CFIA will have the lead coordinating role in responding to the threat.

During the response to an outbreak, CFIA scientists focus on identifying the type of AI virus – some are highly pathogenic and some are of low pathogenicity; knowing this provides information on the potential spread and leads to a more effective response.

When an outbreak is detected, it is critical to quarantine the affected premises to control the movements of infected animals, animal products, by-products, and potentially contaminated materials. Depending on the situation, if you are a producer and your flock has been infected, you may have multiple responsibilities during the quarantine, including the fulfillment of some biosecurity requirements.

Infected birds are humanely depopulated and disposed of in an internationally accepted way. This is done to reduce the chance of a wide-spread outbreak that could seriously affect producers in surrounding areas.

The premises, equipment, work trucks and other materials must be cleaned and disinfected by the producer. The premises must also remain free of poultry for a period of time to ensure the virus has been inactivated and no longer poses a risk to animal health.

Control zones are established to restrict the movement of animals, products, by-products and equipment in the area of an outbreak. Although humans do not usually contract the virus, they could unknowingly transport it from one place to another by moving a vehicle, equipment or clothing that came into contact with infected birds.

To ensure the disease has not spread, surveillance (testing for disease) is performed in poultry flocks on the premises, in the surrounding area, and on those that may have had common contact with infected premises.

When no more infected flocks are identified over a period of time, quarantines and control zones can be removed, and producers are allowed to return to production.

The federal government is responsible for providing producers with financial compensation to cover the costs of birds and other items that were ordered destroyed. The producer is responsible for covering the costs of the cleaning and disinfection.

Working to learn more about the disease and prevent outbreaks

The Government of Canada attaches high priority to managing the threat of AI and is devoting significant resources to prevent the introduction and spread of the disease. The CFIA is at the forefront of that effort.

The CFIA's domestic research activities are focussed on diagnostic test improvement.

One way to determine the presence and characteristics of the AI strains in North America is through wild bird surveillance.

The CFIA, Environment Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre collaborate to conduct an annual survey of AI viruses in wild birds. The survey partners expect to find a variety of AI viruses, most of which commonly circulate in wild birds with little or no impact on their health or the health of other animals. The survey includes sampling of live birds during the spring, summer and fall, and continued year-round sampling of dead birds.

The CFIA and its partners in the survey are particularly interested in AI viruses that are or have the potential to become highly pathogenic. These viruses, which include the H5 and H7 subtypes, can cause illness and death in poultry. The highly pathogenic H5N1 AI virus strain has demonstrated the ability to affect birds, as well as humans and other mammalian species.

Survey results are reported as they are confirmed and are available at the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre Web site.

On an international level, one way the disease can spread is through the importation of poultry products. For this reason, there are importation restrictions in place and continuous efforts to monitor AI developments around the world. Canada prohibits trade in poultry, poultry products and birds with any country until domestic poultry are proven to be free of highly pathogenic AI. When importing from a country that's free of highly pathogenic AI, all poultry must be inspected by an official veterinarian and show no clinical signs of AI within 24 hours of the shipment. Learn more about import measures for live birds to prevent AI.

One of the CFIA's other collaborative efforts to combat avian influenza is through the Canadian Notifiable Avian Influenza Surveillance System (CanNAISS), a commercial bird surveillance program. It's a joint initiative of government, industry and Canadian farmers to prevent, detect and eliminate the presence of notifiable AI in Canada's domestic poultry flocks.

We continue to work with our partners to limit the animal health risks and associated economic repercussions of outbreaks.

Learn more about AI.

Collaborating Internationally

CFIA scientist, Dr. John Pasick recently collaborated with the Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses, co-authoring an article in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science Magazine, in November 2016.

The article looked at the role of migratory wild birds in the global spread of AI H5N8. The research found that recent serious outbreaks in Europe and North America came from migratory ducks, swans and geese that share Arctic breeding grounds. The study was one of the first that proves the correlation between migration and outbreaks while demonstrating the unlikeliness of international trade in live poultry playing a major role in the long distance spread of the virus in South Korea in 2014-2015.

The CFIA continues to collaborate internationally to fight against highly pathogenic AI. CFIA scientists are part of an EU research proposal that will address important gaps in our understanding of AI, including the long distance spread by migratory birds, environmental risk factors, biosecurity breaches, innate and adaptive immunity in poultry and the species barrier.

CFIA scientists are also active members of the joint World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Network of expertise on animal influenzas.

Other Disease Outbreaks in Canada: 2016 Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) Outbreak

On September 21, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) notified the Canadian Food Inspection agency (CFIA) of a positive TB result associated with a cow from Canada that had been slaughtered in the United States. The cow was from Alberta and the CFIA initiated a disease investigation into the case.

In all cases where bovine TB or other infectious diseases are suspected or confirmed, the goal is to respect Canada's domestic and international obligations to take appropriate and prudent control measures, while minimizing disruptions to producers. These measures are critical for protecting the health of Canadian livestock and maintaining market access for Canadian producers.

Some disease investigations can take months before they are completed. Click here for updates on the TB investigation.

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Did You Know?

Ask CFIA recently received a Golden Scissors Honourable Mention from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). CFIB judges commented that Ask CFIA was providing just what business owners were looking for: responsive and consistent customer service. Now that's golden! To get answers to your regulatory questions Ask CFIA.

Consultation and Engagement Opportunities

Consultation is a key activity of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). It supports open and transparent government. A number of consultations are underway over the course of winter 2017, including the proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, cost-recovery, food labelling, among others. We encourage you to have a look at the complete list of consultation and engagement opportunities, become informed and have your say.

Questions or Suggestions

If you have questions about regulatory requirements or other technical questions regarding your business, visit Ask CFIA.

If you have questions about one of the articles in The CFIA Chronicle or would like to suggest an article for a future edition, email: CFIA-Modernisation-ACIA@inspection.gc.ca

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