Canada: second case of bird flu found in British Columbia

Canadian officials, still smarting from a ban imposed on British Columbia poultry exports after the discovery of a case of bird flu, on Tuesday announced another avian flu case, and again stressed that it was not the virulent strain that has been found in Southeast Asia.

The latest case was discovered in a farm operated by the owner of a farm where a duck last week had been diagnosed as infected with the H5 virus, Dr. Cronelius Kiley of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said. He said the latest case was found on one of four other quarantined farms, and that preparations are under way to cull birds on that farm.

The discovery comes a day after the United States, joined by Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, banned poultry from mainland British Columbia because of a case of bird flu. Canadian officials have stressed the virus is a different strain from the H5N1 that has claimed more than 60 human lives.

Canadian officials have sought to downplay the potential impact of the ban on British Columbia poultry exports, with provincial Agriculture Minister Pat Bell saying that the province exports less than 10 percent of its flock.

Still, it comes as a U.S. ban on Canadian cattle, stemming from a mad cow scare, is still fresh in the minds of many Canadian ranchers. The ban cost the country's ranching industry US$5.6 billion and strained ties between the two countries.

Dr. Brian Evans, Canada's chief veterinary officer, noted that the virus found in the duck discovered last week is different from the one in Asia, but acknowledged, "We're dealing in an extremely hypersensitive environment in the world."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency killed about 56,000 birds on the farm in Chilliwack, just outside of Vancouver, as a precaution.

The H5 virus found at the farm is a low-pathogenic North American strain, unlike the deadly H5N1 strain in Asia. Federal officials have assured Canadians that the strain of the flu found in British Columbia poses no threat to human health.

Canada hopes to provide a more extensive report on the area in the next few days that will result in the countries limiting their ban to a three-mile (five kilometer) area around the farm where the duck tested positive.

Depending on the report's results, the U.S. could restrict imports from a smaller, regional area, said Jim Rogers, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An outbreak of bird flu in 2004 in British Columbia prompted the killing of 17 million birds.

The U.S. bans imports of poultry from any country where the high-pathogenic virus from Asia has been found. Those countries include Cambodia, Romania, China, Russia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia, reported AP. P.T.

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