Poultry producer’s farm still under quarantine following deadly avian flu infection

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A poultry producer in Lower Branch, N.S., who lost more than 200 birds after avian flu infected her farm is still months away from getting the all-clear to restart business.

The deadly flu infected Montana Pineyro’s farm in February, killing geese, guinea fowl and chickens.

The infection killed 140 birds before the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ordered her to “depopulate” the rest. In all, she lost 210 birds.

Today, her small farm remains under a bio-secure quarantine, and her visits to feed shops and farmers’ markets are far from normal.

“I’m not allowed to go into the feed stores,” she said. “I’m not allowed to pull up to the dock with my truck. I have to pull up a ways away, and they come out with a forklift and bring me whatever I need.”

Last week, Pineyro was permitted to return to the farmers’ market, but with a caveat: she needs a permit every time.

A photo of a farm. In the centre is a barn, which is covered by a white tent, marking it off limits.
Pineyro won’t be able to set foot in her barn or greenhouse until near the end of August. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Visitors to her farm can pull up into her driveway and enter her house, but they’re not permitted past a certain fenced-in section of the property.

She has to change her footwear before entering the quarantine zone.

No evidence of spread

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) asked her to disinfect everything on her farm, such as large equipment, and the inside of her barn and poultry pens.

Lynn Hood, the regional veterinary officer for animal health for CFIA Atlantic, was unable to discuss Pineyro’s case, but she did say it appears the virus is contained.

“We haven’t had any detections,” said Hood. “So there’s certainly no evidence to think that it has spread.”

Pineyro said she found it impossible to completely disinfect her barn, greenhouse and the rest of her farm.

The only other CFIA-approved option was to seal off the barn and greenhouse, where some birds spent the winter, for 120 days. She can still let her swine and cows graze in their fenced-in spaces, but there’s to be no poultry until Aug. 19.

“We have four months to go before we can set foot in our own barn,” Pineyro said. “My greenhouse is now off-limits, which means obviously there’s no tomatoes growing in there.”

Estimated loss of $30K

Though Pineyro said the situation has been “incredibly frustrating,” there have been some good moments.

A local 4-H group spent a day on her farm cleaning some chicken coops, and neighbouring farmers have been generous with donations and offers to help. Pineyro said she estimates the bird flu infection cost her about $30,000.

Pineyro said the thought of another infection terrifies her. Still, she said she plans to raise poultry again, as soon as possible, provided the fallow period is a success.

According to the CFIA, there have been two known cases of avian flu during the past two years. There are no active cases right now.

Hood said the spring and fall migratory periods are the highest-risk times for the spread of bird flu, which is most commonly transmitted when droppings from wild birds come into contact with poultry farms.

Although cases are rare, people can become infected with avian flu through direct contact with an infected bird or a contaminated surface. There are no cases of human infection with bird flu in Nova Scotia.

Source: CBC