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Poultry farms guard against virus

By Ryan Cormier, Calgary Herald, 2021.05.30

There are rules around David Blackwood’s turkey barns. There’s a mandatory chemical boot wash on the way into the Wetaskiwin facility, about 30 minutes south of Edmonton. A change of boots is supplied if you’ve been in another barn recently, even if it was one of Blackwood’s. And if you don’t absolutely have to enter his barns, stay out.

This strict biosecurity is becoming standard on many poultry farms, as a months-long outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease continues to cause havoc in the southwestern United States. Exotic Newcastle is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease affecting all species of birds.

Poultry operations are being cautious.

“You have to live like there may be a problem so you’re not transmitting anything. Prevention is the key,” says Blackwood, who has 30,000 turkeys.

The American outbreak has struck birds in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas since October. In California alone, 17,638 premises have been quarantined and nearly 3.5 million birds have been destroyed.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has banned various live birds and poultry products from the affected states, including eggs and chicken meat. If the disease hit Canada’s poultry industry, the expected impact would be devastating.

“We’d be looking at anywhere from 30 to 80 per cent mortality,” says Jim Hanson, a poultry pathologist. “Once it’s in the commercial industry, it goes like hell.”

The disease affects respiratory, nervous and digestive systems. It is spread quickly among birds in close confinement and can also be inadvertently carried by humans through feathers and manure on clothing. The disease is not a serious health risk to humans, even if an infected bird is eaten. There have been cases where it has caused conjunctivitis, or pink eye, in people. Hanson says the disease can also move in the form of infected migratory birds.

“Exotic Newcastle is in migrating cormorants and occasionally

pelicans,” he said.

Craig Wilkinson, director of animal care at the faculty of agriculture,

forestry and home economics at the University of Alberta, says an infection of commercial birds would likely come from backyard producers with small flocks.

“The biggest risk is that smaller flocks tend not to have very good disease surveillance. If they’ve only got a few birds and then lose some of them, they might not report it, and then inadvertently carry it to a larger operation.”

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 13th, 2009 :: Filed under Animal health,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Poultry
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