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Bird Flu Continues To Spread Across US and Canada

April 13, 2015
Environmental Health

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have confirmed that the H5N2 bird flu outbreak which has closed 29 poultry farms in Ontario, is the same strain responsible for outbreaks in British Columbia and nine US states since late last year. The Ontario outbreak began on a farm in Woodstock and has so far killed 10,000 birds while another 34,000 turkeys have been humanely destroyed.

The virus is a new hybrid, containing the hemagglutinin gene from an H5N1 virus that has been decimating poultry flocks in Asia since late 2003. There have been no H5N2 cases have so far been found in humans but H5N1 infections have affected 783 people in the past 12 years, 429 of whom have died. There have been a further six outbreaks in the US, four in Minnesota and two in South Dakota affecting 288,000 birds.

In response to the spread of the virus across North America scientists at the University of Guelph have developed a portable tool which is able to predict outbreaks before they occur. The projects lead Professor Suresh Neethirajan, explained; “This test only needs two to three minutes to incubate, and then you get the results immediately. Not only that, but it is more cost-effective. Conventional techniques are time-consuming and labour-intensive, and require special facilities and expensive laboratory instruments.”

The device uses gold nanoparticles and glowing quantum dots to detect surface proteins of the virus from blood samples of affected poultry.