Avian Flu UpdateAvian influenza (or bird flu) is a contagious viral infection which can affect food-producing birds (eg. chickens, turkeys), pet birds and wild birds. It occurs naturally in waterfowl such as wild ducks. Usually, the waterfowl have no symptoms but simply carry avian influenza (AI) viruses.
Viruses can be either low pathogenic or high pathogenic, the latter causing severe illness. Although most avian influenza viruses are low pathogenic, there have been confirmed cases of high pathogenic avian influenza in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The high pathogenic strain of avian influenza found is known as H5N1. Although rare for human beings to "catch" this form of avian influenza, it has happened in situations where people were exposed to live infected poultry. It is not unexpected that this situation could and did happen in the places and situations it has, given the typical working and living conditions in these locations.
As well, there is no evidence that a person can "catch" avian inflluenza from a person who has it. But, there are some concerns that the virus will mutate (change) to a form that can be spread from person-to-person. Internationally, government, scientists and industry are working closely to help prevent a widespread health concern.
Here in Alberta and Canada - the poultry industry continues to work closely with governments and others to ensure an effective plan is "up and ready" if and when the high pathogenic (serious) strain of AI arrives in Canada.
For more information about avian influenza, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's web site at www.inspection.gc.ca or call their toll-free consumer line at 1-800-442-2342 (Monday - Friday, 8 AM to 6 PM EST). As well, you may wish to visit the World Health Organization's website at www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/avian_influenza/en/.
Avian Influenza and Eggs in CanadaThe Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) continues to advise there is no public health risk associated with consuming eggs. Eggs available at Canadian supermarkets have always been and continue to be safe according to CFIA.
Alberta - and all Canadian - egg farmers continually examine the way they farm to make sure their birds are protected from avian influenza viruses. The vast majority house their hens inside barns, where they are protected from wild waterfowl who can be "carriers" of and transfer the AI virus. Visitors to the barn are also restricted to protect the health of the hens and the safety of the eggs they produce. This and the many other on-farm biosecurity practices in Canada's poultry industry are some of the best in the world. If a dangerous virus were to get into an egg farm in Canada, the farmer would be quick to know and respond, helping ensure such eggs would not get into the food supply.
Egg Farmers of Alberta continues to closely monitor the Avian Influenza situation internationally as more information becomes available and is encouraging the federal government to have faster and more aggressive protocols in place to reduce the spread of disease in any future outbreaks of AI.
Any questions/concerns can be directed to the Egg Farmers of Alberta at (403) 250-1197 (or 1-877-302-2344 toll free) (extension 126) or check back on our web site for periodic updates.
Updated March 31, 2010