Alta. researcher studying avian flu

Alta. researcher studying avian flu
Sep 14, 2023

Dr. Faizal Careem wants to know how the disease is spread

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A University of Calgary researcher is looking into how a devastating poultry disease spreads.

Dr. Faizal Careem from the university’s school of veterinary medicine is conducting a three-year study to try to understand how chickens and turkeys become ill with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

“One thing poultry producers want to know is how the virus is entering poultry barns,” he told “We know there’s many ways it can get in, whether it’s through water or migratory birds. But if we can pinpoint exactly how it’s getting in, then we can try to develop biosecurity strategies farmers can implement to protect their flocks.”

Bird flu has hit Alberta hard.

As of Sept. 1, five premises are infected and 57 were previously infected. In total, about 1.4 million birds were impacted.

And on Sept. 11, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed a commercial poultry operation in Warner County, Alta., with avian flu.

“Because we don’t have the answers this study will provide, we’re kind of on pins and needles every season just wondering what might happen every time the bird migration comes through,” David Hylink, chair of Alberta Chicken Producers, told the Red Deer Advocate.

In total, Dr. Careem and his colleagues want to collect samples from about 70 sites across the province, with an even split of locations that have experienced the disease and those that have not.

Industry groups like Alberta Chicken Producers, Alberta Turkey Producers and Egg Farmers of Alberta are involved too, helping to arrange testing sites and providing funding for the research.

Alberta’s Results Driven Agriculture Research is also supporting the research. Between it and the industry groups, Dr. Careem’s work is receiving $733,800.

When a deceased bird is discovered, Dr. Careem and his team will examine it for clues.

“We can determine what strain the virus is and we’ll collect dust samples that can tell if (avian flu) was circulating in the air,” he said. “Then we can take those results and compare them to other locations to see if there’s similarities in how the virus got into the barn.”

Dr. Careem wants to provide updates to the poultry industry this fall or winter, he said.

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