04/07/2015 08:47 EDT | Updated 06/07/2015 05:59 EDT

Avian flu puts 8 Ontario farms under quarantine

An avian flu outbreak on a turkey farm near Woodstock, Ont. has led to seven other Ontario farms being put under quarantine, and pushed Taiwan and Japan to impose trade restrictions on poultry products from the province. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said preliminary testing completed Sunday confirms the presence of the H5 strain after the turkey farm experienced sudden deaths of birds over several days.

Officials said further testing to determine the severity of the illness and the precise subtype and strain is underway, and results should be known within the next few days. 

Virus kills 7,500 birds 

Monday the affected farm along with a neighbouring farm were put under quarantine to control the spread of the virus. Tuesday six more farms within a 5 kilometre radius were also placed under quarantine, though officials said no other farms have reported sudden deaths of birds on their premises. 

Paul Mayers, Vice President, Policy and Programs with the CFIA said on the affected farm 7,500 of 12,000 turkeys in one barn have died from avian flu between April 3 and April 7. The reminder will be euthanized on Wednesday. 

Mayers said officials are working to determine whether the flu could have spread from the U.S. where avian flu was recently confirmed in some states. The investigation is also looking into the possibility of the flu being passed from British Columbia where an outbreak was confirmed in December. 

"We recognize that...there may be the potential for migratory birds to transmit the disease hence our very strong message of encouragement to producers to enhance their bio-security measures," said Mayers. 

Taiwan, Japan implement trade restrictions 

Since avian flu was confirmed on the farm near Woodstock, Taiwan and Japan have placed trade restriction on poultry and poultry products from Ontario. 

Officials said together the countries represent 1.6 per cent of poultry exports from Canada. 

It is not know how long the restrictions will be in place. 

'Hopefully long-term impact will be minimal' 

The CFIA will implement a series of control measures, including confirming the strain of the virus, eliminating infected birds and conduct a thorough cleaning of all barns and tools, said Shayan Sharif, a professor at the University of Guelph and expert on the effects of avian flu on poultry.

"Hopefully, if those control measures are successful - and I'm very optimistic that those measures will be successful - I don't really think that the turkey industry will be significantly impacted," he said.

"There will be some temporary impact, but hopefully the long-term impact will be minimal."

Sharif said the good news is avian flu can be effectively destroyed by heat and strong disinfection measures.

He said thoroughly cooking poultry also protects against risks.

"The proper handling of turkey meat and turkey products would significantly reduce and minimize the possibility of transmission of the virus to humans," he said.