No comment from health officials regarding another suspect case near Peterborough
PETERBOROUGH-A long-time Peterborough County poultry farmer said this year’s avian flu outbreak is cause for concern but insists there is no reason to panic at this point. Karen Woolley, president of Critter Visits of Woolley Wonderland Farm in Lakehurst said that this year’s avian flu is the worst she has seen since 2015, but added things have to be put into perspective.
“Avian flu is to birds what the common flu is to humans. It comes every year,” Woolley said. “The avian flu this year is an extremely nasty strain. It’s being carried by wild birds. We currently have zero birds at our farm with avian flu. We do have biosecurity protocols that are in place and we are doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t hit our farm this year. Most of the outbreaks that have been reported in Ontario so far this year have been from larger, commercial flocks.”
Woolley made her comments to Kawartha 411 after it was revealed by Peterborough Public Health earlier this month that officials were investigating a confirmed report of avian influenza (H5N1) found in a local flock of chickens in nearby Selwyn Township.
There were also reports of a suspect case at a residence near Pinto’s Corners, just west of Peterborough but that has yet to be confirmed by officials.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency stated in an email to Kawartha 411 that it still had only the one case confirmed case in Peterborough County, adding it does not release information to the public on (avian flu) cases until they are confirmed by public health. Kawartha 411 reached out to Peterborough Public Health for a bird flu update in the region but they had not responded as of publishing time.
The agency did have information for the public in a news release issued on April 4.
“The risk to human health remains low and we are not aware of any local human cases at this time,” stated Dr. Thomas Piggott, Medical Officer of Health for Peterborough in the release announcing the avian flu discovery in Selwyn Township. The virus does not easily cross from birds to humans, and the current strain is listed as being ‘lower than normal’ concern for spreading to humans.”
Woolley said they were contacted by officials after the cases were detected in Selwyn because they are not too far away.
“They had 60 birds that died and another 30 had to be put down due to the outbreak,” said Woolley.
The name of the farm has not been released publicly.
Woolley said although avian flu has not hit her flocks, the outbreak has cut into her business – Critter Visits, www.CritterVisits.ca
“We have a collection of miniature farm animals and we take them on the road to visit seniors’ homes and schools, fairs, birthday parties and fundraisers. We have a variety of animals that include miniature sheep and goats, donkeys, ponies as well as chickens, ducks and geese,” she said. “We also have incubators that the public can rent and take home to watch chicks and ducklings hatch. The birds then come back to our farm. But this year we are not taking any of our chickens on the road because of the seriousness of this particular avian flu strain. The small animal auctions across Ontario have been cancelled this spring because the government does not want birds from different flocks co-mingling. There is no public outlet for us to sell our birds this year.”
Woolley said the ironic timing of this outbreak of avian flu combined with the COVID-19 global pandemic is not lost on her.
“I have COVID right now myself and am isolating. I likely caught it from my daughter who has just ended her isolation,” she said.
Peterborough Public Health stated in its news release April 4 that it is working closely with its provincial and federal partners including the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs the Canadian Food Inspection agency as it continues its investigation.
The virus was detected back in March in both wild and commercial poultry with the outbreak largely attributed to the migration of infected waterfowl.
The health unit is telling residents to not touch wild birds if they appear sick, injured or dead. Any sick or deceased birds should be reported to the Ontario Regional Centre of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-866-673-4781.
It also states that transmission of avian influenza to people from consuming undercooked eggs or poultry is unlikely.
Meanwhile, it was reported on April 20 that a Quebec duck farming operation had three facilities devastated by bird flu which forced the slaughter of some 150,000 birds and lay off almost 300 workers.