Canadian Food Inspection Agency Investigation
Highlights British Columbia, Avian Influenza, 2014 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 British Columbia, 2014

On December 1, 2014, highly pathogenic H5N2 AI was identified in two farms in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. The CFIA immediately launched an outbreak investigation, which included movement control measures and surveillance on over 400 farms during the outbreak. In total, nine other commercial farms and two non-commercial poultry flocks 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 10,400 surveillance samples were collected from December 2014 to June 2015, and all samples tested negative for AI. On June 3, 2015, in accordance with the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organization for Animal Health, the province of British Columbia was declared free of AI. Please visit the CFIA website for more information on CFIA emergency management of AI in BC in 2014/2015.

CFIA and its partners remain engaged and are fully prepared to respond again if another AI outbreak occurs in Canada.