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Avian flu at Fraser Valley farms same that killed birds in 2005, 2009

VANCOUVER – The avian flu that has forced the quarantine of two Fraser Valley farms in the past few days has been identified as the H5N2 strain.

It is the same strain that struck Fraser Valley poultry farms in 2005 and 2009, but while those birds were all euthanized to contain the spread, they didn’t actually die of the virus. That is because it was low pathogenic and is a less deadly form.

However, the H5N2 strain currently affecting the valley farms is highly pathogenic. It is much more virulent and can kill chickens within hours of their first symptoms. The same goes for turkeys but they do not develop any symptoms.

Thousands of birds have already been destroyed and thousands more are set to be euthanized in the coming days.

Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, Canada’s chief veterinary officer, says two other nearby farms, also placed under quarantine, are confirmed to have the H5 avian flu, but the exact strain is still to be determined.

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There are no reports of the virus being transmitted to humans. Officials have cautioned the virus does not pose a risk to consumers if the poultry is properly handled and cooked, but in rare cases it can be transmitted to people who work in close contact with the animals.

Meanwhile, four Asian countries have imposed restriction on the importation of B.C. poultry products. Michel Benoit of the BC Turkey Marketing Board says this will not affect sales too much as those markets make up a small portion of the overall business.

Holland, Britain and Germany are also dealing with similar outbreaks.

– With files from Linda Aylesworth and The Canadian Press