Quick euthanization key during next avian influenza outbreak: scientists

Province looks to begin killing birds within 48 hours of the detection of the next avian influenza outbreak.

Dr. Sandra Stephens of the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency speaks about the need to react quickly once avian influenza is detected.

The next time avian influenza is detected in British Columbia, the provincial agriculture ministry and industry groups hope to halt the virus in its tracks by euthanizing all birds on the first-affected farm within 48 hours.

A December 2014 outbreak of a deadly form of the disease saw 200,000 birds killed at 11 different farms. The reaction to the outbreak was deemed a success, with another strain of the contagious virus killing millions of birds in the United States. But officials say the response can get better – especially when it comes to efforts to contain the virus to the locations first affected. During the outbreak, it took as many as five days for the birds to be destroyed in the first two farms impacted.

To speed up the process, the province has purchased its own equipment to use CO2 to kill large numbers of affected birds. Previously, it had relied on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to lead that process. And last week, the province, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and industry groups held a four-day training exercise at an Abbotsford poultry farm to practise the rapid response to an outbreak.

Dr. Jane Pritchard, the province’s chief veterinary officer, said Wednesday that time is of the essence after avian influenza is first detected. She said the longer the infected birds continue to live, the higher virus levels get, increasing the chance that it will spread.

“Every bird that’s infected is constantly producing more and more virus,” Pritchard said. “As soon as you kill them, they stop producing the virus.”

Quick euthanization is also needed to halt the suffering of the birds, Pritchard said, with those dying from the virus during last year’s outbreak doing so in “such agony.” Pre-empting those deaths with euthanization – in which the CO2 renders birds unconscious before it kills them – is much more humane, she said.

Pritchard and the CFIA’s Sandra Stephens recently laid out the rapid response process for reporters. When avian influenza is first detected, the farm will quickly be quarantined and, while CFIA officials are still on their way to B.C., the province will mobilize their own resources to kick the process into gear. Workers don several layers of protective garments, both to ensure they aren’t exposed and to make sure they don’t bring the virus off-site.

After the affected barn is sealed, CO2 from trucks parked nearby is pumped into the structure, using specially designed manifolds meant to evenly spread the gas among the birds.

The animals are to be knocked out within minutes, with death following soon after. All material on site is then composted within the barns, with piles needing to reach around 37 degrees C to eradicate traces of the virus.

Pritchard said the exercise has been invaluable, but has also given officials hope that they will be able to improve upon the 48-hour target.


Just Posted

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

Free parking not in the cards for Fraser Valley hospitals

Chair says board may look at ways to make parking easier, but not free

Speculation tax causing concern at Cultus Lake, Harrison Hot Springs

Recreational property owners face hefty bill for 2019 for what some call a ‘wealth’ tax

Rescue boat theft marks third in 3 years for Agassiz-based SAR team

Eight-metre Spirit of Harrison rescue vessel was stolen Friday night, found Saturday morning

Agassiz climber remembered for love of mountains and passion for climbing

Mountains had been calling to Marc-André Leclerc since he was a kid

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Viewer Photos: First day of Spring around British Columbia

Our loyal viewers sent us some of their favourite Spring photos from all corners of the province

Five Canadian kids charged with making school threats

Police say online threats are on the rise

Not even Ellen DeGeneres can get Virtue, Moir to say they’re more than friends

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Tuesday

RCMP warn public to stop pouring gas on fires after three incidents

Police responded to three recent incidents that sent seven people to hospital

BCHL Today: Surrey Eagles in the driver’s seat and Ethan Martini takes a seat

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

UFV health fair focuses on taking back health

Health sciences program invites Dr. Cathy van Ingen to speak

New Liberal bill would tighten controls on sale, licensing of firearms in Canada

Measures are intended to assist police in investigating gun trafficking and other crimes

Most Read