OTTAWA/WINNIPEG (Reuters) - Canada has detected a case of H5 avian flu in the eastern province of Prince Edward Island and plans further testing over the weekend to determine whether it is the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, government officials announced on Friday.
A gosling in a small backyard poultry flock in the western end of the tiny province contracted the disease but there is a low risk of human illness from the outbreak, officials said.
The last Canadian outbreak occurred in November 2005 on the other side of the country, in British Columbia, and involved low-pathogenic H5N2 strain. In that case no birds actually showed signs of illness but 60,000 ducks and geese were culled nonetheless.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said there is no evidence that the latest bird flu case is the high-pathogen H5N1 strain that has spread to 48 countries so far since its resurgence in 2003.
If it is, it would be the first case in the Americas. The H5N1 strain has killed 129 people in nine countries since 2003, mostly in Asia.
"Just because the virus was there does not mean that's what killed the geese," said CFIA veterinarian Jim Clark.
"Ducks and geese are natural reservoirs for avian influenza viruses. The viruses exist quite nicely in their intestinal tract and cause absolutely no illness or death in the birds. That would be the situation in this case," he said.
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