Less than a week after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed that the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian flu had been discovered in Alberta poultry flocks, a provincial cabinet minister said “there is no risk to food safety” and his government is responding to the development.
“The quick discovery of these cases is a testament to the effectiveness of our disease surveillance and response system and the commitment of our poultry producers,” Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development Minister Nate Horner said in a news release issued Tuesday.
“The risk to human health is extremely low.”
Horner said his government is helping the CFIA with its investigation through testing and mapping.
“We have offered our help wherever possible and needed,” the minister said. “We are in regular contact with the CFIA, industry, producers and other stakeholders to ensure a timely, co-ordinated and effective response.
“This case is an important reminder of the importance of strict biosecurity measures and early detection.”
Horner noted anyone with flocks of poultry is required to report any suspected avian flu cases to the CFIA or to Alberta’s chief veterinarian’s office.
Since late last year, avian flu outbreaks involving the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain have also been detected elsewhere in Canada, including in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Ontario.
While different forms of avian flu are often considered mild, H5N1 can cause serious disease and death in birds.
So far, officials have said there has been no evidence of farm-to-farm transmission.
The CFIA has set up control zones in areas with active outbreaks in Alberta to quarantine infected animals.
In his statement, Horner acknowledged this is “an incredibly difficult time for the affected producers.”
“We appreciate the steady support of all stakeholders as we continue working together to resolve this issue.”
–With files from Laura Osman, The Canadian Press