Should we be afraid of bird flu, this great chicken plague?

Since COVID-19, another highly contagious virus has entered Canada that is worrying experts: bird flu is directly attacking our pantry, with catastrophic long-term consequences.

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• Read also: Canards du Lac-Brome paralyzed by bird flu

• Read also: Quebec poultry farmers are on high alert

The disease appeared in a Newfoundland flock on December 20 and has already led to the culling of 700,000 birds, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Outbreaks occurred in eastern Ontario. The spread is very fast and several farms in Outaouais are under surveillance.

In Quebec, Estri suffered greatly. Canards du Lac Brome was forced to destroy over 200,000 birds, including all of its breeders. Canada’s largest duck farm will take a year to recover and will need millions of dollars to get back up and running.

But what is bird flu? How did she get here?

  • Why do we call it bird plague?

Avian influenza has a devastating effect on farm animals such as chickens and turkeys. Its mortality rate is so high that it has been nicknamed “bird plague” or “chicken Ebola”.

If a case is detected on a farm, all animals must be slaughtered. In any case, the virus will kill at least 90% of the herd.

Wild birds usually transmit the virus because they don’t show symptoms. The disease can be transmitted directly from bird to bird through excreta and droppings. It is also spread through contaminated food, water, and equipment.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the symptoms of avian influenza are manifested by a decrease in strength and appetite, a decrease in egg production and the laying of a large number of soft-shelled or unshelled eggs, swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks, coughing, sneezing and nervous symptoms, diarrhea, incoordination or sudden death.

  • Is the virus dangerous to humans?

The avian influenza virus can sometimes infect mammals such as pigs or humans.

The first outbreak of avian influenza in humans occurred in 1997 in Hong Kong. The virus has claimed the lives of 6 people. Influenza reappeared in late 2003, first causing epizootics, diseases affecting only animal species, and then the first human cases.

While the virus rarely infects people, it has killed about 60% of those infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported one case of avian influenza in a person who recently returned from a trip in 2013.

People become infected after contact with sick animals or contaminated surfaces. Note that the virus is killed when poultry is cooked.

  • What will be the consequences for the consumer?

What is very worrying for poultry farmers is the emergence of the virus in densely populated areas.

Specialists supervise companies that are subject to supply chain management. These farms are very numerous in Beause, in Monteregie, and in Saint-Félix-de-Valois, in Lanaudière.

An estimated 25% of poultry farms in France are affected by avian influenza.

Avian flu could be another factor increasing pressure on the purchasing power of Quebecers.

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