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Canada reports bird flu outbreaks on western farm
Updated: 2004-02-20 07:55

Bird flu has been discovered on a farm in British Columbia, but officials were quick on Thursday to downplay fears that the disease could spread to humans.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was still conducting laboratory tests on the disease, but a spokesman said it had been identified at the H7 strain of avian influenza, the same strain found recently in Delaware

According to the CFIA's Web site, the H7 strain has not been linked to illnesses in humans, and is not the same strain at the center of an outbreak in Asia that has been linked to the deaths of 22 people in Vietnam and Thailand.

"Further testing will confirm whether the virus is a low or highly pathogenic version of the virus," CFIA and Health Canada said in a news release.

The farm has been quarantined to keep the disease from spreading and about 16,000 birds will be "depopulated within the next few days," officials said.

"At this stage, the issue is focused on animal to animal transmission and the risk that poses to those who come in direct contact with animals who have H7 avian influenza," the agencies said.

Federal officials did not release the location of the farm, but local media and provincial health officials said that it was in the Lower Mainland region of southwestern British Columbia, east of Vancouver.

British Columbia is the third largest poultry producer in Canada, with a total flock of more than 4 million birds, federal statistics show.

Farm groups were looking for more details about what kind of flock it was and how virulent the strain was.

"The industry is extremely concerned: we're worried about it," said Lisa Bishop, spokeswoman for Chicken Farmers of Canada.

Bishop said birds on the farm will be killed and birds on farms within a 5 kilometer radius will be tested.

"We're concerned because it could be trouble for the industry," she said. "Consumers need to know that if they cook their product properly, there is no risk."

Farmers are worried about the cost to their businesses if consumers stop eating chicken or if the disease spreads among farms and more birds have to be killed, she said.

"It's a very upsetting thing: this is a person's livelihood," Bishop said.

The farmer whose bird are being destroyed will be eligible for compensation, officials said.

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