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H5N1 Bird Flu Found in British Columbia

February 10, 2015
Public Health

chickenThe highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus has been isolated from a poultry flock in British Columbia. The outbreak, detected on February 2, has been confirmed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The agency was however quick to stress that no cases had been reported in commercial poultry flocks in the country, and the strain of the virus detected was thought to be genetically different to the one which has been reported recently in Asia.

The affected flock consisted of 94 egg-laying birds in the town of Chilliwack and is thought to be linked to an infection in a green-winged teal duck which occurred in nearby Washington State. The CFIA report on the incident states, “Based on the limited partial sequence of the H5 and N1 gene segments obtained thus far, it appears very likely that this is the same or a very similar virus to the … H5N1 virus in Washington State, but more sequencing will be needed to make a final conclusion.” It is the first time H5N1 has been detected in Canada.

The virus, which first infected humans in 1997 in Hong Kong, has spread rapidly from Asia across Africa and Europe. In December 2011, commercial poultry farms in British Columbia were infected with H5N2 bird flu resulting in 245,600 chickens and turkeys being destroyed. Its thought that migrating birds may be responsible for introducing both strains of the virus.