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Canadian Food Inspection Agency Investigation
Highlights Ontario Avian Influenza 2015 Outbreak

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is a science-based regulator that takes a modern, outcome-based approach to its activities. The health of Canadians, including protection from preventable foodborne and zoonotic diseases, is the driving force behind CFIA programs. The CFIA has the lead role in responding to emergencies that fall within its mandate, including those related to animal health.

Avian Influenza

Avian influenza (AI) is a contagious viral infection that can affect several species of food-producing birds, pet birds, and wild birds. AI viruses are classified as either low pathogenic, or highly pathogenic based on the severity of the illness caused in birds. On rare occasions, AI viruses may cause disease in humans through close contact with infected birds or heavily-contaminated environments. It is important to note that AI does not pose a risk to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked.

In Canada, highly pathogenic AI and low pathogenic H5 and H7 avian influenza viruses are defined as Notifiable Avian Influenza, which is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act. All Notifiable Avian Influenza cases must be reported to the CFIA.

Controlling AI is a challenge, mainly because it is commonly found among migrating wild birds in North America. Migration brings wild birds through agricultural areas with poultry farming operations, which can lead to domestic poultry being exposed to viruses carried by the migratory wild birds.

Effective biosecurity is the key to preventing and limiting the introduction and spread of AI and other diseases. To facilitate industry preparedness, the CFIA and its industry partners developed the National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard (2009) and Poultry Service Industry Biosecurity Guide (2013) in collaboration with producer organizations, other federal partners, provincial/territorial governments and academia. These documents and supporting material describe disease management strategies and guidelines to producers and producer organizations. The CFIA works with the poultry industry to update these documents, incorporating the most current scientific information about AI control.

Beginning in late 2014, there were a number of outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N2 AI virus in North America. Two of these occurred in Canada: a British Columbia outbreak in December 2014 and an Ontario outbreak in April, 2015.

AI Outbreak in Ontario 2015

On April 5, 2015, highly pathogenic H5N2 AI was identified in a turkey farm near Woodstock, Ontario. The CFIA immediately launched an outbreak investigation, which included movement control measures and surveillance on over 70 farms during the outbreak. During the investigation, two additional commercial farms were found to be infected. All birds on the infected farms were depopulated and properly disposed of to prevent further spread of the virus.

Over 1,300 surveillance samples were collected from April to July 2015, and all sample results tested negative for AI. The CFIA's post-outbreak surveillance period ended on October 8, 2015. Surveillance samples were collected and tested from 160 premises and all results were negative. On October 8, 2015 Ontario was declared free of AI, in accordance with the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organization for Animal Health. Please visit the CFIA website for more information on CFIA emergency management of AI in Ontario in 2015.

There have been no additional reports of AI outbreaks in Canada, and the CFIA and its partners remain ready to respond to any that may occur.

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