Rise of avian flu in Quebec | Producers “on high alert”

The avian flu pandemic continues to gain ground in Quebec. Positive cases have just been detected on two farms in Montérégie. This region has the most poultry producers in the province and experts fear that the virus is spreading at high speed.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Emilie Bilodeau

Emilie Bilodeau
The Press

“This is not good news, says Manon Racicot, veterinarian-epidemiologist at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The Montérégie is the region with the highest density of farms in Quebec. There are layers, breeders, chicken or turkey breeders. It’s very problematic,” she said.

The two contaminated poultry farms, one of chickens and the other of turkeys, would be located near each other, near Granby, but the CFIA does not know if there is a link between the two were hatching. Epidemiological investigations are in progress.

  • Distribution of chicken breeders in Quebec, in 2019

    IMAGE PROVIDED BY THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD OF QUEBEC

    Distribution of chicken breeders in Quebec, in 2019

  • Territorial distribution of egg producers, in 2019

    IMAGE PROVIDED BY THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD OF QUEBEC

    Territorial distribution of egg producers, in 2019

  • Distribution of turkey breeders in Quebec, in 2019

    IMAGE PROVIDED BY THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD OF QUEBEC

    Distribution of turkey breeders in Quebec, in 2019

  • Distribution of free-range bird breeders (ducks and geese) in Quebec, in 2019

    IMAGE PROVIDED BY THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD OF QUEBEC

    Distribution of free-range bird breeders (ducks and geese) in Quebec, in 2019

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The Quebec Avian Disease Control Team is also concerned about the progression and contagiousness of the highly pathogenic virus. This is mainly transported by migrating birds in spring and autumn.

“It is very worrying. Our producers are on high alert,” says Paulin Bouchard, president of the Quebec Poultry Disease Control Team (EQCMA).

On contaminated farms, there will be slaughter and decontamination. And the producers around, those in the risk zone, they will have enhanced security measures to prevent the spread.

Paulin Bouchard, President of the Quebec Poultry Disease Control Team

Since the beginning of the year, more than three million birds have been culled at 94 different locations in Canada to prevent the spread of H5N1. In the province, more than 300,000 birds have been euthanized. Since 2005, at least 75 countries have recorded cases of bird flu.

Hatching in an auction

Two other places – smaller – have also been contaminated in Quebec in the last few days: a breeding of less than 300 birds, in Roussillon, on the South Shore of Montreal, and another place which does not sell birds. , eggs or meat, in Drummond, near Drummondville.

“It could be someone raising a small herd for their own consumption or it could be a zoo, show animals or a herd raised for racing. These are not birds that enter the food chain. They represent a very low risk, ”explains the DD Racicot, who must keep the place confidential.

According to our information, the owner of one of these two places bought infected birds at an auction that took place on September 24, in the municipality of Alfred, Ontario. The Interprovincial Association of Bird Breeders, which organized the event, sent a letter to all exhibitors and buyers to warn them that birds were contaminated with H5N1 during the auction. She asks them to monitor their animals for symptoms and to contact the CFIA if they are sick.

“A local breeder brought in several birds to sell, but these were infected with the virus. The hall is not a very large place and the virus seems to have spread to all the birds that were there, ”says the letter signed by the association.

The CFIA confirms that farms were contaminated during this auction.

We contacted everyone who had bought birds there. They have been screened and several tests have come out positive in Ontario and Quebec. It is a very particular situation. We had never had this kind of case before.

Manon Racicot, veterinarian-epidemiologist at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Note that bird flu is rarely transmitted from birds to humans.

Towards a rise in prices?

In the west of the country, which is hit harder by the pandemic, turkey prices have already increased due to the virus. Since the start of the year, they have grown by 20% in Alberta and British Columbia compared to 16% for the rest of the country, according to the Laboratory of Analytical Sciences in Agri-Food at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

In the United States, breakfast restaurants are also panicked by soaring egg prices, which have risen 30% in one year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

“Avian flu entered chicken coops and it had a major impact on consumers,” explains Maurice Doyon, professor in the department of agro-food economics and consumer sciences at Laval University. We are talking about several million animals that had to be slaughtered. We are also talking about a production that is extremely concentrated. A single company in the United States produces more eggs than all of Canada. »

But since farms are better distributed in Quebec and biosecurity rules are strict, the professor doubts that avian flu will have an effect on grocery prices in the short term. “Basically, it will depend on the extent of the cases in Quebec,” he notes.

Poultry production in Quebec, in 2019

1,013 chicken farmers

247 turkey producers

76 producers of free-range birds (ducks and geese)

989 egg producers

Source: Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

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