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Bird Flu Found in 18 Canadian Farms

The virus found on 18 farms in the Fraser Valley region in the western province of British Columbia has been confirmed as bird flu, Canadian Agricultural Minister Bob Speller said Friday.

The government will decide within days on an industry proposal to slaughter up to 16 million farm birds in an effort to halt the rapid spread of the virus in the region, Speller said.

But authorities have no plans at the moment to extend the radius of the current high-risk control zone beyond the original five km around Abbotsford in the region, he said.

Twelve of the 18 infected sites were in the original zone, the minister said, without specifying the locations of the other six.

About 500,000 chickens and turkeys have been slaughtered by Friday. The massive expanding of the culling program would raise the question of how to dispose of the millions of potentially infected carcasses. Experts hope that incinerators could be brought in to the region.

According to local reports, poultry contributes nearly US$1 billion to the province's economy per year, with 80 percent of it coming from the Fraser Valley region. Hundreds of workers in the industry have already been laid off due to the outbreak of bird flu, and the number is expected to increase.

Ray Nickel, the president of the Poultry Committee of British Columbia Province, said the industry is losing an average of about 2 million dollars a week and hatcheries are losing nearly 200,000 dollars a week.

(Xinhua News Agency April 3, 2004)

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