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U.S. and Canada now classified as free of avian influenza.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that the United States is now free of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). "It is always a pleasure to be able to call the OIE and report that we've eradicated a disease in this country," said John Clifford, USDA's chief veterinarian. "The HPAI eradication project was such a success because of the cooperation between APHIS, state and local governments and the poultry industry."

USDA's APHIS sent a letter of confirmation to OIE on August 19 stating that the required six months have passed since the detection, eradication, cleaning and disinfection of two live bird markets and one backyard flock in Gonzalez County, Texas, were completed. Targeted and extensive surveillance has not detected any further evidence of the virus. The United State's HPAI-free status has been confirmed by the OIE.

In Canada authorities say that nation's worst outbreak of bird flu is now over and transport restrictions on poultry in the Fraser Valley region have been lifted. "Surveillance indicates that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been eradicated from commercial and backyard flocks in this area," the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said in a statement. CFIA veterinarian Cornelius Kiley, who directed efforts to control the disease, said U.S. officials have told the agency they will now end import restrictions on poultry products from the Fraser Valley.

The outbreak, which began in February, eventually forced officials to order the destruction of 16 million chickens, turkeys and other poultry, in the farming region east of Vancouver, to keep the disease from spreading. The outbreak began as a low-pathogenic form of the virus but mutated into a highly pathogenic one, or more severe form. Infections were found at 42 farms and 11 backyard flocks.

Meanwhile, the Chinese ministry of agriculture denied last week that avian influenza had been discovered in pigs this year, and minimized the significance of the finding in 2003. It said that 1.1 million poultry and pigs had been tested at the beginning of 2004 and all the pig samples had proved negative. AgenceFrance-Presse reports that the ministry "attempted to play down the situation without really clarifying it." On Tuesday, the Beijing Times quoted an anonymous ministry official as saying: "The discovery of the virus in pigs does not mean that they are infected, and still less that there has been an epidemic."

However, experts from the Chinese National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory confirmed that the discovery of the H5N1 virus in pigs did not mean there had been an epidemic. "The amount of virus that our laboratory isolated from pigs was extremely limited," said laboratory director Chen Hualan. On August 20, Chen told an international symposium that H5N1 had been found in pigs for the first time anywhere in the world--in the province of Fujian in 2003 and on a single farm at another location this year. She described these findings as "a danger signal for public health."
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Aug 30, 2004
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