Wed, Apr 07, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Canadian officials order slaughter of 19 million chickens

AP , OTTAWA

Canadian officials ordered the slaughter of some 19 million chickens and turkeys in British Columbia to try to stop the spread of a highly contagious bird flu.

The cull in Fraser Valley, which would affect some 80 percent of the province's poultry producers, was ordered after avian flu spread beyond an 11km hot zone surrounding the first affected farms.

"This decision was made in order to eradicate the disease here in Canada," Agriculture Minister Bob Speller said Monday in Ottawa. He said the cull was recommended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Jim Clarke, a spokesman for the food inspection agency, said: "We are currently not catching up" with the spread of the virus. He said a mass slaughter was the only realistic way to stop its spread.

About 400,000 birds had already been ordered slaughtered before Monday's decision.

Two workers have caught mild forms of the H7 avian flu but have recovered. The strain, unlike the flu that killed 24 people in Thailand and Vietnam, is not considered life-threatening to humans.

The cull will be centered on the Abbotsford, Speller said.

The agency also will issue a new biosecurity protocol for those in contact with poultry or the poultry industry, said Dr. Francine Lord of the food inspection agency.

The measures include barring people from entering poultry premises without the owner's permission, sanitizing vehicles and equipment entering and leaving and a foot bath at entrances to poultry cages, she said.

"Rigorous and resolute adherence to biosecurity practices will help ensure that disease spread is contained while depopulation eliminates the virus from [British Colombia's] poultry," she said.

In the US, 1,000 birds were killed after the flu turned up on a Texas farm.

Speller said some compensation will be provided for the producers and processors of the slaughtered birds.

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