Why is this research important for Alberta ag?
The poultry industry in Alberta is currently challenged by a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak affecting wild birds, commercial poultry operations, and small flocks. Many waterfowl are affected with HPAI as well as birds of prey, other bird species and small mammals, which may also suggest ‘elevated environmental pressure of infection’. The poultry industry follows biosecurity protocols and has been on heightened alert since early 2022, but Alberta still has the highest number of infected premises in Canada.
In the face of what appears to be ‘elevated environmental pressure of [HPAI] infection’, questions are being asked concerning how HPAI virus from the environment has entered barns, including biosecurity breaches related to fomite transmission, ventilation, and water sources.
What benefits can producers expect from this research?
The more relevant data and information industry and poultry producers have on HPAI, the more informed actions can be taken to mitigate its spread. The main outcome of this project will be the information created that will be used by the poultry industry to improve biosecurity and risk mitigation strategies moving forward. The robust analysis will answer questions of concern to industry. It is likely that the industry may continue to face continued HPAI challenges moving forward. Maps and models will be developed so they can be updated as more or alternate information becomes available.
Additionally, this research will answer specific industry questions but also support all work of Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Project information will be made available to the CFIA and from this data researchers will be able to compare and contrast this current outbreak to analyses of the HPAI outbreaks in Europe and Canada.
How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?
Researchers will work directly with the poultry industry in Alberta to help define and answer questions of interest and importance to them during this outbreak. This team will characterize the situation to the full extent allowed by the data, to deliver evidence-based practical advice. Outcomes from this project will help the poultry industry have a focus in the next few years related to improving biosecurity and barn design. The survey of commercial barns and subsequent analyses will help guide these improvements.