With Alberta’s current cold weather, and the fact that very few wild birds can be seen in the sky, it is easy to believe that the risk of Avian Influenza (AI) is low. However, EFA continuously monitors AI outbreaks in North American and around the world, and it is important to advise egg farmers that AI is impacting much of the world at this time:
- On January 9, 2017, H5N2 was detected in a wild mallard duck collected by a hunter in Fergus County, Montana. This is the same strain of AI that circulated in Canada and the US in 2014/2015. So far, no domestic poultry cases have been detected.
- Highly pathogenic AI H5N8 is currently spreading in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, infecting wild birds and domestic poultry. As of the first week of February 2017, 37 countries had reported cases. In the past 90 days, more than 650 farms have been infected in Europe alone.
- Highly pathogenic AI H5N6 has been circulating in waterfowl in China, and has recently been identified in commercial poultry operations in Japan and South Korea. H5N6 is a newly emerging influenza infection, and there are concerns that it might spread and follow H5N8 into Europe or North America. The virus is capable of causing disease in humans.
There are significant concerns that these viruses may spread to Canada through the migration of wild birds. To protect Alberta flocks and the provincial industry, egg farmers can remain vigilant in protecting their flocks year round:
- Whether raising birds in confined production systems or in systems with outdoor access, minimize direct and indirect contact with wild birds and their droppings, including preventing potentially contaminated footwear, clothing and equipment from entering production areas.
- Deter wild birds from the premises and prevent their contact with poultry feed and water sources.
- Do not process any wild birds on farm during hunting season.
- Ensure pest control programs are in place.
- Prevent non-essential access to the premises, lock doors and gates, and post signage to direct visitors away from the barn or flock area, to a designated location such as the office.
- Ensure biosecurity measures are implemented by all personnel entering the barns.
- If changes in flock health are noticed or there is a suspicion that the birds may be sick, enact a self-quarantine and contact both a poultry veterinarian and EFA immediately.
EFA will continue updating egg farmers with regards to the AI risk level, and advising about recommended precautions.