We must change the way we do things to fight bird flu

In the fight against avian flu, which is currently ravaging the world, we have to get out of traditional ways because the disease is no longer what it was in the past. In a webinar hosted by AQINAC, Dr. Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, Full Professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Montreal and a world expert in avian infectious diseases, presented the situation and pointed out what needs to be done. the disease. According to him, we must review our ways of doing things.

The avian flu virus has always been present in wild birds, but since 2015-2016 we have seen a dramatic increase in avian flu cases worldwide. “On a global level, it is almost everywhere,” specifies Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt. Virtually every region of the world is affected: North America, Europe, Africa, Asia.

Climate change is highlighted because it increases encounters between birds from different regions. An important element that is also changing is that the virus no longer follows traditional transmission periods. The cases occur in the summer, as was the case in Valcartier, in the Quebec region, and raise doubts among scientists.

The spread of the disease highlights the limitations of laws in a crisis situation. For example, in France, where composting on farms is prohibited, the transport of dead avian flu animals by rendering workers has accelerated the transmission of the disease from one region to another. France is the most affected country, with 1,350 households from over 4,000 households in 35 countries for just under a year. What is very particular about France is that there are eight different bloodlines that act in different ways. The bird flu virus undergoes many mutations.

In the United States, the regions where there are more ducks and barnyard geese have more cases, while the large integration region in the Southeast of the country is relatively spared. What is special is that mammals are affected: foxes, skunks, martens, seals. In Ontario, the presence of natural water bodies close to farms is identified as a risk factor for contamination.

Quebec was relatively spared. The two main episodes of avian influenza on commercial farms occurred on duck farms in Estrie and turkey farms in Valcartier. However, H5N1 has been found in wild birds for years across the province.

Biosecurity remains important. Some points presented more risks in France: inadequate management of vehicle and personnel movements; inadequate management of mortalities; inadequate pest control program. Introductory factors such as the lack of boots, the presence of ducks in the pasture and visits from friends on the farm have been proven.

Changing Paradigms

According to Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, paradigms must be changed in terms of biosecurity, surveillance and vaccination. In terms of biosecurity, the proliferation of backyard farms is a risk. It’s not so much that backyard farms are riskier individually, but the fact that they multiply the number of locations and can be set up close to commercial farms. According to Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, backyard farms shouldn’t have the right to settle everywhere.

In terms of monitoring, Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt explains that the sampling method on the farm should be reviewed. A study in France showed that samples taken from the birds’ environment by breeders and sent by them to the laboratory showed results comparable to tests carried out by a veterinarian.

Vaccination is an interesting tool, but not foolproof because it has its limits. The biggest problem at the moment is that the company has developed a vaccine for the United States, but Canada is not commercially interesting to do all the tests. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) must therefore change the way it approves the vaccine for Canada. According to Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, despite everything he said, we must not panic, but we must act.

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