The Ontario government and the province’s poultry industry are putting renewed give attention to biosecurity at their first meeting within the three years for the reason that COVID-19 pandemic began, with the hope farmers’ actions today might stop a fair deadlier pandemic before it begins.
Until this yr, the National Poultry Show in London, Ont., was traditionally held in April. But as infections and losses amongst domestic flocks proceed so as to add up from the highly pathogenic avian flu organizers, or H5N1, the event was moved to early February to get the message out before wild birds start their spring migration.
With farms still under quarantine in B.C.’s Fraser Valley and outbreaks in Quebec last summer, the talk amongst poultry farmers in London, on the industry’s largest gathering in Canada, is not about “if” the virus arrives, but “when.”
At this yr’s show, authorities aren’t taking any possibilities on their messaging to farmers and the necessary role they play in stopping the spread of H5N1 — especially after a Spanish mink farm was decimated by the virus in what is perhaps the primary documented case of mammal-to-mammal transmission of the illness.
H5N1 could make COVID-19 look mild
“The proven fact that we’re seeing that mammal-to-mammal infection is a priority — we’re mammals,” said Al Dam, a poultry specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
It’s why OMAFRA now discourages live poultry shows and livestock auctions, while encouraging all poultry and swine employees to get the flu shot — to forestall human flu strains from mixing with their avian or porcine counterparts and a possible zoonotic leap together with it.
If avian flu ever made the leap to humans, the result could make the COVID-19 pandemic look mild.
Since 2003, there have been 240 human cases of the virus in 4 Pacific region countries. Of those, 135 were fatal, giving the virus a case fatality rate of 56 per cent, based on the World Health Organization. Essentially the most recent human case was detected in China last fall. The patient died in lower than a month.
“We now have to push a tough message,” Dam said. “People do not realize, it isn’t just their little fish bowl.”
Even a small misstep, corresponding to forgetting to alter boots or tools between barns, may end up in life-changing consequences on the farm. A single case of avian flu detected on a chicken, turkey or duck farm would end in Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials imposing a 10-kilometre quarantine, before euthanizing each animal.
Hospital cleaner to be used on the farm
That fact is not lost on farmers like Brock Wiebe, who works on his family’s chicken farm in St. Marys, Ont., where they rely on a flock of 14,000 birds to make a living.
“We’re anxious but we’re taking every precaution we will because it could wipe out your whole flock,” Wiebe said.
Biosecurity has turn out to be such big business in agriculture that it’s prompted entrepreneurs corresponding to Mark Bevan to make a foray from health care to agriculture.
Bevan is president of EthoGuard, an organization that is found a flourishing business selling disinfectant, personal protective equipment, biosecurity training for farmers — even cleansing up after an avian flu outbreak.
“Biosecurity has an increasing importance,” Bevan said. “The fact that we’re in right away with avian influenza, it’s much more necessary to scale back your risk of getting it in your farm.
“Influenza, unfortunately, is becoming a little bit of a norm now.”
The corporate’s marquis product is Prevail, a stabilized hydrogen peroxide product that was first developed for hospitals throughout the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis. As avian flu and swine fever began to increasingly threaten farms a decade ago, Bevan said he and his business partners saw a possibility they couldn’t pass up.
“The technology is named accelerated hydrogen peroxide. It is a Canadian invention actually,” he said. “It’s seen as essentially the most effective alternative. It’s a really quick contact time for killing pathogens, but the true magic is it’s actually a cleaner as well.”
Bevan said since introducing the product in agriculture, business has grown, but Prevail continues to be a minor player. He hopes to sooner or later replicate the success the chemical has seen in hospitals, where it’s as indispensable as rubber gloves.