Highly pathogenic H7N3 avian influenza (AI) has been found in chickens on a commercial operation in Saskatchewan one hour north of Regina. Pathogenicity refers to the severity of illness a virus causes in poultry.
Highly pathogenic viruses can cause significant illness and death in domestic poultry.
The affected flock was not used for table eggs or sent directly to slaughter. It is important to note that AI viruses do not pose risks to food safety when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked.
This particular virus (H7N3) has not been known to cause severe illness in humans. In general, human illness as a result of AI is rare and normally associated with close contact with infected poultry.
It is important to emphasize that this is not the highly pathogenic Asian strain of H5N1 AI that has been circulating in Asia, Europe Africa and the Middle East. Human infections there have almost always resulted from direct contact with infected poultry. That strain has never been detected in North America.
As a precautionary measure, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) took immediate steps to place the farm under quarantine, with full cooperation from the producer.
With the confirmation of the highly pathogenic H7N3 virus at the farm, we are also taking the following disease control measures to make sure the virus does not spread:
Humane depopulation of the flock
Strict control of the movement of susceptible species and products within three kilometres of the infected premises
Surveillance of flocks in a 10 kilometre radius around the infected premises