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Ottawa, Victoria respond slowly to Abbotsford bird flu

After a sluggish weekend response to the bird flu outbreak in Abbotsford, the provincial and federal governments looked a little more alert by Monday night.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency had nothing relevant on its website most of the weekend but finally posted an item on January 24. It followed up with another post on January 26.

The Abbotsford News was also a bit slow to respond, but after a couple of news stories published a good summary quoting interim agriculture minister John Van Dongen. (He replaces Stan Hagen, who died suddenly last Friday.)

According to the CFIA, 24 farms in the Abbotsford area are currently under quarantine.

The precise strain of avian flu is still unknown. It is known to be “low-pathogenic H5,” which makes birds sick but doesn’t kill them in large numbers the way high-path H5N1 does.

Whatever strain it turns out to be, we should hope that it hasn’t spread to other farms. In the 2004 outbreak, 17 million birds had to be culled and Fraser Valley poultry farmers lost $300 million.

Crawford Kilian, a contributing editor of The Tyee, blogs about avian flu at H5N1.

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