Canadian health officials announced yesterday that the H5 avian influenza flu virus has been found in 33 migratory ducks in Eastern and Central Canada. Though the flu's subtype is yet to be determined, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Jim Clark says, "These findings do not indicate that we are dealing with a virus strain capable of causing significant illness." He goes on to say that this particular strain of flu is not the same virus that is wreaking havoc on Asia's bird population.
Approximately 4,800 samples were taken during the course of a study to determine what role, if any, migratory birds play in the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus. More than 60 people have died and a staggering 140 million birds have been put to death in an attempt to control further spread of killer H5N1 virus.
Though further testing is expected, Canadian officials seem nonplussed by the detection of avian flu in their country. "The detection of H5 avian influenza is not unexpected," said the Agency's official statement. They also point out that similar types of H5 have been detected throughout North America over the past 30 years.
Early identification of the deadly H5N1 may be key in helping to contain a potentially large outbreak so it is heartening to see Canada taking a proactive approach. Some researchers feel it is only a matter of time before H5N1 finds its way to North America.
While I was reading this article, I wondered how Americans would react to similar news. Given how touchy our nation is right now about national security and adequate government response, if H5 was suddenly detected in Cleveland, Ohio I am curious how the news would be received. Would sales of poultry suddenly drop? Would people begin randomly shooting at birds in their own backyards? Or would people react calmly and trust that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was doing all it could to ensure our safety?