Alberta has more cases of avian flu than any other province: CFIA

A stock photo showing the inside of a hen farm. (Getty Images)

Alberta has more confirmed cases of bird flu than any other province, according to data collected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

As of Tuesday, the CFIA lists 23 flocks in Alberta where avian influenza has been detected, compared to 21 in Ontario, seven in Saskatchewan and just one in Manitoba.

Alberta also has more birds impacted by avian flu than any other province, with the CFIA's most recent data showing an estimated 600,000 birds impacted.

The data on the estimated number of impacted birds is updated every Thursday, and Alberta's already-high estimation will inevitably spike during the next update, as bird flu has been detected in at least four more flocks since the last one.

Across Canada, every province - with the exception of PEI - has had at least one domestic flock infection, leading to an estimated 1,372,400 birds being euthanized, affecting 58 farm businesses.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AVIAN FLU IS DETECTED?

The CFIA usually takes control of the farm, putting restrictions on who can come and go from the property and placing it under quarantine. CFIA staff and contractors then come in to "depopulate" the birds - suffocating them with either carbon dioxide or in some cases a special water-soluble foam.

Farmers are not responsible for euthanizing the birds, and CFIA also arranges and pays for the carcasses to be buried, composted or burned.

But producers are on the hook for clean up costs associated with washing out barns and disinfecting them, along with tools and equipment that may have been in contact with infected birds.

There is compensation for the loss of the individual animals at market rates.

Affected farmers contacted by CTV News declined to speak about their experience, directing inquiries to the Alberta Chicken Producers and Egg Farmers of Alberta. Both associations say interviews are not possible at this time.

Avian influenza is commonly carried by wild migratory birds, especially waterfowl. According to Alberta's wildlife disease specialist Dr. Margo Pybus this year's infections appear to be more widespread and causing more severe symptoms, including disorientation and head tremors.

Wild birds normally show little sign of infection. The outbreaks are expected to subside as migration wraps up in June.

The CFIA says avian flu is not a food safety concern, and there is no evidence to suggest that eating cooked poultry or eggs can transmit it to humans.