Disease outbreak simulation provides chance to learn

A simulation of a poultry disease outbreak offered a chance for animal health experts to gain some hands-on experience.

Thirty-five animal health practitioners participated in the simulation, held at the University of Alberta research farm. They included personnel from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Alberta Agriculture.

Brad Andres, emergency program manager for Alberta Agriculture, said the exercise gave CFIA the opportunity to practice its procedures, while provincial participants could learn from the federal agency’s experience containing exotic poultry disease.

“We wanted to practice the use of the poultry depopulation equipment, the bio-containment of a contaminated barn and the logistics of managing a single farm site,” Andres said.

“The key learnings were on the bio-containment front. How much work it is to actually have people go into a contaminated barn and come out safely without spreading anything.”

The exercise was a first for Alberta and provided an opportunity to use a carbon dioxide vaporizer, which turns liquid carbon dioxide into gas and enables the simultaneous euthanization of a barn’s entire poultry population.

Chris Morley, deputy chief provincial veterinarian at Alberta Agriculture, said there is always a risk that an exotic bird disease such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) will make its way into the province’s poultry population.

“B.C. had two outbreaks recently. There was also an outbreak at a turkey farm in Manitoba last year,” Morley said.

“Wild birds like ducks and geese can spread HPAI, which is why it’s so important to limit the amount of people that enter the barns, and to make sure they have clean boots and overalls when they do go in.”

While this exercise focused primarily on the logistics of managing a single infected barn, other simulation exercises are conducted yearly in Alberta that focus on the communication between the agencies that would be involved during an outbreak of a reportable avian disease.

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