Newsmaker of the day: Bird flu

Thousands of turkeys are dying in the Fraser Valley—and it’s not because of the holiday season

An outbreak of H5N2 influenza has prompted the destruction of some 80,000 chickens and turkeys at four farms in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. Today the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began to kill thousands more, starting at the broiler-breeder chicken farm in Chilliwack, B.C.

Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, Canada’s chief veterinary officer, says police are helping to secure the farm.  It will be sealed off and then flooded with carbon dioxide gas to euthanize the flock. The federal government will compensate farmers for each bird lost.

Farmers haves voluntarily imposed a three-kilometre containment zone around affected farms. There are no signs the virus has spread.

H5N2 has broken out three times in the area, most notably in 2004 when 17 million birds had to be destroyed. This is the first appearance of the deadly “high-path” strain. While bad news for birds, the pathogenic strain causes only mild symptoms in humans. People who have close contact with infected animals may develop irritated eyes and mild respiratory illness. It doesn’t seem to spread from person to person, but the flu is notorious for mutating rapidly. Health officials see no reason to give it the opportunity.

Although the federal government says it’s safe to eat chicken, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan have banned the import of various Canadian poultry products.

With files from the Canadian Press

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