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Canadians Encouraged to Keep Avian Flu Risk in Perspective

by 5m Editor
12 December 2005, at 12:00am

CANADA - Farm-Scape: Episode 1992. Farm-Scape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork.

Canadians Encouraged to Keep Avian Flu Risk in Perspective - CANADA - Farm-Scape: Episode 1992. Farm-Scape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork.

Farm-Scape, Episode 1992

An Alberta based swine veterinarian says, when considering the potential spread of Avian Influenza from one species to another in Canada, it's important to keep the risks in perspective.

In response to confirmed cases of avian influenza in Canada several provinces have stepped up disease monitoring.

Dr. Julia Keenliside, with Alberta Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives, says people have been watching influenza for decades and the potential for flu viruses to pass between pigs and people and poultry has been long recognized but the risks aren't necessarily any greater today than in the past.

"I think the big issue about flu is it's easy to overreact and assume that animals are infecting humans and to get very frightened by the whole scenario but reality is people are probably the biggest risk to other people for catching flu.

If we do have a pandemic strain come to Canada it's probably going to come on an airplane with people rather than in wild birds. We don't have the H-5-N-1 that's in Asia, I think that's one point.

The second point is that all influenza strains are so different that, even though they say there's an H-5-N-1 in Asia that can kill people, we have H-5-N-1's here in our wild ducks but it's a completely different H-5-N-1 and so this is nothing new and we haven't had problems before.

I think we need to put it in perspective and not panic every time someone says that there's a flu virus found in a pig or flu virus found in wild ducks on a survey.

It just means this is probably just a normal background level of influenza that's always there. It's certainly not a cause for panic or concern because it's not the same virus."

Dr. Keenliside says governments around the world are monitoring and typing viruses in many species to keep tabs on where they originate and how they change.

She also stresses flu is not a food safety risk, and people can not get flu from eating pork or poultry, and sick animals or birds would not pass inspection for human consumption in Canada anyway.

For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

5m Editor