Avian influenza forces 12,000 turkeys to be killed at western N.S. barn

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency say 12,000 turkeys at a commercial barn in western Nova Scotia had to be euthanized after avian influenza was discovered at the farm.

The news was revealed during a Friday media briefing.

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a highly contagious viral strain.

Prior to today, cases were discovered in a wild goose and a backyard flock of chickens that weren’t meant for commercial production.

Speaking on CBC’s Maritime Noon, Dr. Margaret McGeoghegan, a veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Atlantic division, said she wasn’t at liberty to disclose a specific location for the barn.

Restrictions at surrounding farms

She said there are other commercial producers in the area and that restrictions are in place for commercial operations within 10 kilometres of the affected barn to prevent the virus from spreading.

“Because of the intensity of the production system, the risk there is very high and also considering the fact that there is lots of waterways and lots of exposure to wild birds,” said McGeoghegan.

She said people in the industry are extremely concerned about the cases.

McGeoghegan said farms have strict biosecurity measures to try to prevent the virus from entering a farm. The virus, which is spread through airborne transmission, can be brought in inadvertently on shoes, equipment and clothing, she said.

“Because this strain is as highly pathogenic as it is, when it hits, sometimes there are no clinical signs other than that the birds are dead,” said McGeoghegan.

Poultry industry response

On Friday, the Nova Scotia Poultry Emergency Response Planning Committee — which includes Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia, Egg Farmers of Nova Scotia, and Hatching Egg Farmers of Nova Scotia — released a statement saying the poultry industry is on high alert and asking for help from neighbours to help prevent the spread of avian flu.

It said the industry has been following “advanced biosecurity protocols” to prevent spread since the first suspected case was found in a wild goose east of Halifax. The industry is co-operating with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s instructions.

It is also putting out a call to anyone that’s raising domestic fowl on their property to for signs of avian flu and take all precautions to keep their birds away from wild birds. It said if anyone sees a sick or dead wild bird, to report it online through the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. 

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