LANCASTER — No commercial poultry operations remain under avian flu control-zone restrictions in Eastern Ontario, after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency lifted those measures at prior outbreak sites in the region last month.
The CFIA eliminated the zones connected with three North Lancaster-area poultry farm sites on July 8th and 19th. They were the only commercial operations in Eastern Ontario to post outbreaks of the virus, prompting the CFIA to impose on-farm quarantines and accompanying “primary control zones” over a broad swath of the community — and extending into a corner of Quebec — on April 10th, 12th and 14th.
A primary control zone imposed April 5th in Prince Edward County, in response to an outbreak at a small poultry flock, was similarly lifted July 8th. Eastern Ontario’s only other outbreak, at a “non-poultry” small flock in Peterborough County, triggered another primary control zone, on April 23rd. The CFIA lifted that one on May 13th.
Movement of poultry and other captive birds is prohibited across the boundaries of primary control zones, without special permits. Poultry farms within such zones must also adhere to stricter biosecurity measures.
Infected farms must cull and compost all of their birds and thoroughly clean their barns before returning to production. A poultry operator recovering from an infection may take weeks or months to return a flock to the same life-cycle stage as before.
Canada’s poultry sector has had to deal with its worst-ever H5N1 “highly pathogenic” avian flu experience this year — though the rate of new cases has slowed. Ontario last detected a new outbreak on May 18th, in the regional municipality of York, for a total of 26 outbreak sites in the province. Primary control zones have been lifted in 14 of them.
Quebec, however, added four new outbreak sites this summer, including its latest July 22. All are commercial poultry operations located outside Quebec City. The first three, which turned up between June 28 and July 9, are located within the same primary control zone.
Consequently, the total number of captive birds destroyed by Canadian farmers as a result of avian flu nudged upward last month to just over 2 million. Alberta (937,000), Ontario (560,500) and Quebec (286,000) have had the highest culls.
While the disease otherwise appears to be on the decline, Chicken Farmers of Canada spokesperson Lisa Bishop-Spencer highlighted the recent Quebec cases as well as the expected return of migrating waterfowl on their way south this fall. Waterfowl are major carriers of the virus. “It’s been waning, but we’re bracing ourselves for the fall when all those birds pick up and leave,” Bishop-Spencer said.
Bishop-Spencer reiterated that production of chicken meat hasn’t felt much impact from the challenges of avian flu this year. “Particularly in Ontario, where there are a lot of poultry farms,” she said.
The province has 1,200 chicken meat producers, 430 egg producers and 160 turkey farms.