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Highly pathogenic avian flu has disastrous consequences in Quebec

Greater than 500,000 poultry farm birds in Quebec have died or been culled attributable to publicity to the infectious illness; some wild birds have been affected as nicely.

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Each fall, Francis Lauzier walks the shoreline of the Richelieu River close to his residence in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu to see the snow geese congregate by the hundreds.

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“There are such a lot of, they appear to be a blanket of snow masking the river,” he stated.

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However in late November he noticed one thing he’d by no means seen earlier than: teams of three to 5 birds had been dotted in every single place alongside the river’s edge, huddled collectively in demise. He counted greater than 200 useless snow geese within the span of 4 kilometres. In a single spot he noticed raccoons feasting on the carcasses.

“It was very, very unhappy,” he stated. “And eerie.”

Mary Williams had the same expertise whereas strolling with a buddy on Nov. 29 in the identical area, roughly 35 kilometres southeast of Montreal.

“There have been so many useless birds, it was unbelievable,” stated the resident of Ste-Thérèse, an island within the Richelieu River. “We had been actually spooked.”

A Parks Canada worker sporting protecting clothes and a specialised masks was amassing the our bodies. Staff in two extra vans would be part of her. It’s the avian flu, she informed them.

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Extra particularly, it was the H5N1 extremely pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), a lethal pressure of the chook flu that’s inflicting the “most devastating” outbreak ever in Europe and the United States, and is being seen for the primary time in Quebec, with disastrous penalties.

To this point, the Canadian Meals Inspection Company has recorded 532,000 birds which have died or needed to be culled attributable to publicity to the illness on 23 poultry farms in Quebec. Eleven outbreaks had been nonetheless listed as “ongoing” as of Tuesday. Farms in British Columbia and Alberta have been even tougher hit, struggling 2.9 million and 1.2 million deaths, respectively. Greater than six million birds — primarily chickens, turkeys and geese — have been culled on business farms in Canada up to now 12 months, with outbreaks hitting each province besides Prince Edward Island.

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In america, a report 55 million birds in 47 states have died or been culled.

“That is one thing we’ve by no means had earlier than; it’s the highest-risk pressure our farmers have ever confronted,” stated Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, a professor on the Université de Montréal’s veterinary college who specializes within the management of infectious illnesses. “Worldwide, it’s a pandemic actually of extremely pathogenic avian influenza. It’s in over 65 nations.”

The primary circumstances of H5N1 in Quebec were detected in April in geese, presumed to have been contaminated by birds who migrated from Europe. Geese particularly can carry the illness with out getting sick, however transmit it by way of their secretions or feces. Wild birds can contact business livestock, which typically reside outside, or contaminated soil or straw may be tracked into farms on tractor tires or boots.

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In mid-April, Brome Lake Geese within the Jap Townships introduced three of their 13 amenities had been hit. The company had to kill 150,000 birds and destroy 400,000 Pekin duck eggs, and lay off 300 workers, the most important cull within the firm’s 110-year historical past. As a result of the losses made up nearly the entire firm’s breeding inventory, it might take as much as a 12 months to get again to full capability, administration stated. Since insurance coverage corporations don’t compensate for chook mortalities, Brome Lake Geese is predicted to lose tens of millions.

Diseased birds might show an absence of urge for food and power, respiratory issues like coughing and sneezing, and swollen heads, Quebec’s Agriculture Ministry notes. As a result of the illness is extraordinarily infectious and has an incubation interval of as much as 14 days, authorities will order the culling of all birds in a barn inside hours of a constructive check. There isn’t any identified therapy.

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Though much less frequent in wild birds, the illness does have an effect on sure species, together with those that eat contaminated geese, like gulls, raptors, turkey vultures and hawks, stated veterinarian Stéphane Lair, regional director for the Quebec department of the Canadian Wildlife Well being Cooperative, which helps to watch the disaster. Marine birds residing in cramped colonies had been additionally affected. The carcasses of hundreds of northern gannets had been discovered on the shores of the Îles de la Madeleine this summer season.

There have been a couple of circumstances of the illness transferring to mammals, together with raccoons, foxes, possums and minks. Close to 100 dead harbour seals had been discovered alongside the banks of the Decrease St. Lawrence this 12 months as of August, about six instances the standard charge of mortality. No less than 15 examined constructive for avian flu.

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The virus can switch to folks, though circumstances are extraordinarily uncommon. There isn’t any proof to counsel consuming cooked poultry or eggs might transmit the illness to people. However Lair cautions that “influenza viruses are identified to evolve, so there’s nothing telling us that this flu is just not going to alter at one level. You don’t wish to keep in touch with useless or sick birds.”

As a result of the virus hits primarily Canada Geese and snow geese which are actually migrating south, numbers of infections are anticipated to drop over the winter.

At current, the virus has solely hit a small fraction of the wild chook inhabitants and the roughly 1,200 business hen and turkey farms in Quebec, Vaillancourt stated. Scientists postulate that numbers have been increased in western Canada as a result of there are extra poultry farms, a lot of that are in shut proximity, and extra geese farms through which birds reside outside.

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The widespread transmission of the illness in Europe, with the variety of circumstances on farms rising by 35 per cent this autumn, brings fears the outbreak is not going to finish rapidly, as others have carried out up to now.

“It’s the query nobody has the reply for,” Lair stated. “This virus first appeared in Europe and has been circulating there for 2 years now, so it doesn’t appear to go away very quick.

“So we must always need to anticipate one other 12 months for certain.”


  1. A microbiologist tests poultry samples collected from a U.S. farm located in a control area for the presence of avian influenza, or bird flu, on March 24, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin.

    Quebec wildlife authorities say first cases of avian flu identified among wild birds

  2. A microbiologist tests poultry samples collected from a U.S. farm located in a control area for the presence of avian influenza, or bird flu, on March 24, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin.

    Quebec duck farm detects a case of avian flu

  3. Vancouver, BC: FEBRUARY 21, 2015 -- A harbour seal near Canada Place in Vancouver, BC Saturday, February 21, 2015.

    About 100 seal carcasses found in Quebec as researchers detect avian flu

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