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Avian influenza confirmed in Two Hills area

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LAKELAND - A small flock in the County of Two Hills is one of the most recent sites of confirmed avian influenza in Alberta, according to the federal government.

On May 1, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in poultry within the County of Two Hills. 'Poultry' is defined as "Birds reared or kept in captivity for the production of any commercial animal products, or for breeding for this purpose."

The County of Two Hills posted an advisory on its website, stating "Avian Influenza has been detected in several areas in Alberta; having confirmation of the same in the County of Two Hills as of May 2."

Since April 6, 2022, avian influenza has been found in 24 sites across Alberta, among those sites, Vemilion River County is also listed with HPAI detected in that region on April 27 in "non-poultry," which is defined as "Birds kept in a single household for use within the same household, or kept in captivity for reasons other than the production of animal products."

HPAI has also been found in the Wainwright area, Camrose region, Sturgeon County, along with a list of other areas throughout Alberta. Avian influenza was first detected in Alberta on April 6, in Mountain View County in a commercial premises. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has been responding to cases of HPAI in farmed birds across Canada.

"This serves as a strong reminder that avian influenza is spreading across the globe, and that anyone with farm animals must practice good biosecurity habits," according to the federal government. "HPAI is not a food safety concern. There is no evidence to suggest that eating cooked poultry or eggs could transmit HPAI to humans."

Avian influenza, also known as "bird flu," is a contagious viral infection that can affect several species of food producing birds, as well as pet birds and wild birds. 

On April 29 federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau released an updated statement on the issue, acknowledging that "This has been an unprecedented year for the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 worldwide."

"Where domestic birds are suspected of being infected with HPAI, the CFIA takes immediate action to control the disease. The typical response includes movement restrictions and quarantines, an investigation, the humane depopulation of impacted birds and thorough cleaning and disinfection of the infected premises. In addition, where depopulation and destruction of objects have been ordered, the CFIA compensates eligible owners," explains Bibeau in the statement.

"Canadian poultry products are safe to eat and continuing to buy them is the best way to support poultry producers and processors during this time when they are under great pressure," reads the statement.

"I know this is a particularly stressful time for Canada's poultry producers. Detecting and responding to an outbreak can be emotionally exhausting. I remind everyone to call for help when they are experiencing a difficult mental health situation," adds Bibeau.

Infected birds may show one or many of these signs: lack of energy, movement or appetite; decreased egg production; swelling around the head, neck and eyes; coughing, gasping for air or sneezing; nervous signs, tremors or lack of coordination; diarrhea, and sudden death.

Bird owners are legally responsible to notify authorities of serious bird diseases such as bird flu. Anyone who finds a sick or dead wild bird is encouraged to contact the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. 

On April 12, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development Nate Horner issued a statement on the positive cases of (HPAI) in Alberta flocks.

“Recently, Alberta poultry farms have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which was previously detected in migratory waterfowl, backyard flocks and commercial poultry flocks in the eastern United States, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and in a wild bird in Vancouver. Albertans can be assured there is no risk to food safety and that the risk to human health is extremely low," said Horner.

“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is leading the investigation and response. Alberta has supported the CFIA with testing and mapping, and we have offered our help wherever possible and needed," he added.

He reminded Albertans that if they suspect or confirm a case of HPAI in a flock, they are required to report it to the CFIA. or the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian. 

“This is an incredibly difficult time for the affected producers," said the minister.

The Alberta Poultry Industry Emergency Management Team (APIEMT) is working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development, "to expedite the investigation of suspected cases and mitigate the potential risk of further spread of AI in Alberta. At this time the cause of the confirmed case of AI is unknown, but is believed to be linked to migratory birds, as has been the case recently elsewhere in both Canada and the United States," reads an April 10 noticed from APIEMT. 

Five basic rules to protect your flock:

  • prevent contact with wild birds and other animals
  • frequently clean poultry coops, waterers, feeders, your clothing and your boots
  • spot the signs and report early
  • limit exposure to visitors
  • keep new birds separate when entering your flock


Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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