The number of people in British Columbia enjoying chicken or turkey for a Christmas dinner this week likely won’t be impacted by the outbreak of avian influenza in the province, according to survey results released by Chicken Farmers of Canada on behalf of the poultry and egg industries today.
The results show that British Columbians realize the disease is not a food safety risk:
- 92 per cent of British Columbians trust that the Canadian poultry and egg industries are doing all they can to contain the current avian influenza outbreak.
- 94 per cent of BC residents have eaten poultry and eggs since the outbreak.
- 92 per cent of British Columbians plan on eating the same amount of poultry and eggs as they did before the outbreak, indicating that avian flu has not deterred them from their normal consumption habits.
- 80 per cent of BC residents are not concerned about catching avian flu from eating poultry and eggs, while 77 per cent are not worried about catching avian flu in general.
“We want to reassure the public that yes, poultry and egg products are safe to eat,” said Ray Nickel, President of the BC Poultry Association, following the release of the survey results. “Health Canada has stated there is no evidence that consuming poultry or eggs can transmit the avian influenza virus to humans.”
Nearly 250 thousand chickens and turkeys have died or been euthanized on the 11 farms where the H5N2 virus has been confirmed in the Fraser Valley. Some of those farms were producing birds that could have been destined for holiday dinner tables.
“We’ve been working hard to ensure that turkeys are available to everyone who wants one for their holiday dinners,” said Michel Benoit, General Manager of BC Turkey Farmers, “We’ve supplemented our stock with turkeys from other provinces and prices will remain stable. So everyone can continue to enjoy this festive time of the year.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working with producers on limiting and closely monitoring any movement of poultry or poultry products in BC.
Last week, scientists with the CFIA’s National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease said they confirmed the virus is highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N2, containing gene segments from the highly pathogenic Eurasian H5N8 virus.
“This is the first time a Eurasian lineage highly pathogenic H5 virus has caused an outbreak of avian influenza in poultry in North America,” said a statement from the CFIA.
There have been no reports of H5N2-related illness in humans, but the CFIA says public health officials are monitoring workers on farms where the virus has been detected.
So far the virus has not been found in wild birds in Canada, but further studies are underway.
There were also outbreaks of avian influenza in southern BC in 2004, 2005 and 2009. In 2004, 17 million birds died or were euthanized following an outbreak of H7N3 avian influenza.