Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.
A highly contagious strain of avian influenza has infected flocks of birds in almost every province, but Alberta’s poultry industry has been bearing the brunt of the outbreak.
At least 900,000 birds are dead in Alberta, out of 1.7 million across the country. Every province but Prince Edward Island has reported cases.
There have been infections at 24 sites in Alberta, including 18 commercial operations. There are the same number of outbreaks in Ontario, though the number of birds killed there is lower, at 425,000.
The Alberta government has said it is helping the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with testing and mapping, stressing that quick detection can help limit the spread.
There have been cases in seven flocks in B.C., including one commercial operation and six others listed as small flocks. About 53,000 birds have been lost in the province.
Last month, B.C. ordered commercial poultry farmers with more than 100 birds to move their flocks indoors until the spring migration ends in May.
Experts stress the food supply is safe and there is little risk to people, but the growing infections involving the H5N1 strain have cast a shadow over the poultry industry.
The Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council, or CPEPC, says the European Union and 30 countries have limited imports of Canadian poultry, ranging from bans to more targetted geographic restrictions. The EU and the United States have enacted measures that apply only to products from within 10-kilometre zones around each infected farm.
There have also been cases of the H5N1 strain in the United States, Europe and Asia.
The Canadian poultry industry says biosecurity measures put in place after 16 million birds were culled in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley during a previous outbreak in 2004 have worked to limit the damage.
The CPEPC says just 0.17 per cent of commercial laying hens and 0.17 per cent of commercial egg farms have been affected by the flu in Canada, compared with about 8.7 per cent of commercial laying hens in the United States.
Chicken Farmers of Canada says only 5 to 11 per cent of domestic production is usually earmarked for export.
The outbreak has also prompted the SPCA in British Columbia to ask people to take down their birdfeeders to reduce the risk to wild birds, which can be killed by the virus but also pass it along to farmed poultry.
The CFIA recommends that anyone with backyard bird feeders and baths periodically clean them, and that anyone who comes into contact with bird droppings thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water.
The CFIA also recommends owners of small flocks, including backyard chickens, and pet birds confine them until the migration period ends, in order to prevent contact with wild birds and lower the risk of disease transmission.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.