03/11/2015 06:31 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 05:59 EDT

Feds lift control zone at B.C. poultry farms after avian flu infection

VANCOUVER - A control zone that restricted the movement of poultry in southern B.C. after an outbreak of avian flu has been lifted by the federal government.

But the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a notice to the industry posted online Wednesday that restrictions imposed by more than two dozen countries on the export of birds and bird products remain in place.

The avian-influenza outbreak began last December, hitting 11 commercial chicken and turkey farms in the Fraser Valley, as well as a couple of backyard coops.

At the time, the agency created a control zone across the southern half of the province to stop the spread of the virus.

"The CFIA's disease control measures and ongoing bio-security efforts by producers prevented the further spread of the disease," the notice said.

"Surveillance by the CFIA has not detected the H5N2 and H5N1 strains of the virus in domestic poultry since Feb. 2, 2015."

The agency said infected farms have cleaned and disinfected their facilities, a process that will be followed by 90 days of surveillance testing on poultry.

"Permits are no longer required for the movement of birds and bird products in British Columbia," the notice added.

The number of countries that have imposed trade restrictions on B.C. poultry products has climbed to more than two dozen since the virus was first detected in two Fraser Valley farms in early December.

Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea were the first four to impose bans, with the United States, Mexico and South Africa quick to follow suit.

Since then, varying restrictions have been introduced by the Philippines, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brazil, Barbados, the European Union, Venezuela, Colombia, China and Vietnam.

Robin Horel, head of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council, has previously said a farm can be labelled free of the avian flu after the three-month surveillance period but more work will be needed to resume overseas trade.

Prior to December, B.C.'s last significant avian flu scare occurred in 2004, when a highly pathogenic strain led to the culling of 17 million birds.

Horel said it took more than a year for international trading bans to be lifted then but he anticipates a faster turnaround this time.