Canadian Livestock Farmers should be on alert

Apr 17, 2024

While no cases have been reported in Canada yet, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in a North Carolina dairy herd, raising concerns for livestock across North America. This follows previous detections in dairy cattle from Texas, Kansas, Michigan, Idaho, New Mexico, and Ohio. With the recent case in neighboring Ohio and HPAI found in neonatal goats in Minnesota, Canadian small farmers should be vigilant.

Enhanced Biosecurity Measures Crucial

Canadian authorities are encouraging farmers to implement stricter biosecurity protocols to minimize the risk of HPAI transmission. Here are some key measures to consider:

  • Separate Poultry and Wild Birds: Maintain distance between poultry areas and locations frequented by wild birds.
  • Strict Access Control: Limit access to poultry houses and farm premises. Ensure equipment is disinfected before entering poultry areas.
  • Discourage Bird Attraction: Avoid bird feeders or water features near poultry barns.
  • High Sanitation Standards: Maintain the highest level of cleanliness and disinfect regularly.
  • Designated Footwear: Change footwear when entering restricted areas and avoid wearing contaminated clothing or equipment in production zones.
  • Visitor Communication: Inform all visitors about the situation, including service providers and suppliers.
  • Proper Disposal: Store mortalities securely until disposal and disinfect waste containers before collection.
  • Vehicle Sanitation: Wash and disinfect vehicles entering and exiting the farm, focusing on wheels.
  • Waste Management: If possible, store all farm waste on-site until the HPAI situation resolves.

Farmers with concerns about HPAI are encouraged to contact their veterinarian or provincial animal health official.

Transmission and Risk

While wild migratory birds are considered the primary source of HPAI infection, the spread within the Michigan herd suggests potential cattle-to-cattle transmission. Initial testing shows no significant changes in the virus that would increase human transmission risk. However, it’s crucial to maintain biosecurity to minimize the spread between animals.

Strain and Species Susceptibility

The HPAI strain detected in dairy cows is H5N1, similar to the strain affecting wild birds and commercial poultry flocks.  HPAI has also been found in wild mammals and, as noted above, in neonatal goats in the US. While many species are susceptible to influenza viruses, the spread often occurs through contact with infected birds.  The Minnesota goat case highlights the risk of shared sources like water or pasture with infected birds.

The detection of HPAI in North Carolina dairy cattle emphasizes the importance of heightened biosecurity measures for Canadian livestock producers. By following these protocols and staying informed, farmers can help prevent the spread of HPAI and protect their animals.

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