Statement: Update on the Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) Investigation – Alberta and Saskatchewan (2016-11-25)

The CFIA has a mandate for controlling diseases in animals, especially those diseases that can be transmitted to humans. As a regulatory agency, the CFIA's primary responsibilities are to control the spread of federally regulated diseases. This includes the humane depopulation of animals at risk of being diseased. These responsibilities maintain the integrity of Canada's international zoosanitary status and market access.

In all cases where federally regulated diseases are suspected or confirmed, the goal is to minimize disruptions to producers while taking appropriate control measures. These measures are critical for protecting the health of Canadian animals and for maintaining market access for Canadian producers.

Currently, there are six confirmed cases of bovine TB. This number includes the cow that was confirmed to have the disease when it was slaughtered in the United States. Based on an assessment of the five additional cases confirmed recently, we have expanded the scope of the infected herd to include six premises.

Nearly all adult animals from these six premises have been tested, and the removal and humane destruction of all animals on these premises is continuing.

This investigation involves a significant number of premises. CFIA inspectors are conducting tracing and on-farm testing of potentially exposed animals. Since the investigation requires the tracing of the animals' movements for the past five years, it is expected to take some time. We have a fully developed plan to manage this investigation.

Approximately half of all currently required field testing is complete. As for the remainder, we will complete field testing on the newly identified premises next week and testing of the contact premises and trace-out premises will be completed by mid-December.

At this point in time, and given our current assessment of the investigation, we have the number of field staff required to manage the testing.

We recognize that, in some cases, our field capacity is constrained by a number of logistical factors, including the availability of suitable animal-handling facilities on individual farms to ensure the safety of both animals and those handling them.

The first stage of TB field testing requires specialized training. For this reason, CFIA veterinarians and inspectors from across Canada are currently being used in this investigation. Retired CFIA veterinarians have also been re-employed.

If more veterinarians are needed beyond CFIA's capacity, we have a plan in place to provide additional capacity. We would mobilize veterinarians in the following order:

  • first, we would engage CFIA-accredited veterinarians,
  • then provincial veterinarians,
  • and then private-practice veterinarians, who would be engaged through the Canadian Veterinary Reserve (CVR).

The testing capacity of the CFIA laboratory is not defining the speed of this investigation. The full testing process can take up to 14 weeks to complete, since the tests are complex and take time to conduct.

We recognize that there have been some communication challenges with affected producers, and we have worked hard to improve our communication with them.

The CFIA has provided fact sheets to producers regarding what to expect when under quarantine and what compensation or financial assistance might be available.

We are establishing a case model system so each producer has a dedicated contact.

We will improve our web products to provide clearer information for producers.

We will continue our twice-a-week conference calls with industry associations. An industry liaison is also embedded in the Western Area Emergency Operations Centre.

In addition, producers can contact the CFIA directly by using the CFIA's "Contact us" email link on our website.

Producers under quarantine have expressed strong concerns that they are not equipped with the resources, such as space, feed, and water that they need to care for the calves they will have over the winter.

The CFIA has worked collaboratively with industry and has approved the requirements to implement a feedlot option to accommodate calves from quarantined farms that are not equipped for winter feeding. This feedlot option ensures that the quarantine is maintained and that appropriate biosecurity measures are in place to control the risk of disease exposure for other animals. Industry will find the partners and resources to implement this option.

While we are doing everything possible to manage this situation, producers can also help expedite the process. For example, when inspectors arrive to conduct their initial investigation, we can work faster if producer records are well organized and complete for review.

Animal owners are responsible for destroying and disposing of their animals. To facilitate speed in destruction of animals, the CFIA is establishing slaughter arrangements with processors so that animals can be humanely destroyed in larger numbers, if required. Disposal of carcasses will then occur through normal commercial channels such as rendering.

Compensation for animals ordered destroyed has begun and has been delivered to some producers.

Under the Health of Animals Act, the CFIA may compensate producers for:

  • animals ordered destroyed;
  • other things ordered destroyed, such as contaminated feed or animal products; and
  • the disposal costs of animals ordered destroyed.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is working closely with the provincial government and producer groups to meet the immediate needs of affected producers.

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