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B.C. Lab to Provide Quick, Secure Testing for Animal Diseases


December 11, 2008
By The Canadian Press

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NEWS HIGHLIGHT

B.C. Lab to Provide Quick, Secure Testing for Animal Diseases
A new lab that will provide quick and secure testing for diseases such as avian flu, mad cow disease and West Nile virus will soon open in B.C.

Agriculture Minister Stan Hagen says it's the only such facility in Canada that's associated with a provincial veterinary lab to diagnose diseases that can transfer from animals to humans.

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Hagen said the lab "ensures we are fully prepared to identify and respond to incidents of animal disease faster and more efficiently. This proactive step benefits animals, industry and the public.''

The lab's advanced testing means fewer samples will need to be sent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's lab in Winnipeg, he said. The lab, which will open early in the new year, is an addition to the existing Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford, B.C., the hub of the Fraser Valley agricultural area.

The area was the hardest hit in Canada when fears of a human avian flu outbreak were at their peak several years ago.

Two people were infected in a 2004 bird flu outbreak at Fraser Valley poultry farms.

They suffered only mild flu-like symptoms but hundreds of thousands of birds were culled and the province's
$350-million-a-year industry was devastated. Up to 1,700 jobs were lost.

Thousands more birds were culled during a 2005 avian flu outbreak over fears the disease could  transfer to humans.

The new $14-million testing facility will provide more protection for lab workers from diseases that may infect people as well as animals, Hagen said.

It will feature unbreakable glass and other measures to prevent disease-causing agents from being reintroduced into the environment.

Garnet Etsell, chairman of the B.C. Agriculture Council, said he is pleased the province's diagnostic capabilities will expand when it comes to threatening diseases.

"This new laboratory will help ensure B.C.'s producers have access to some of the best animal health diagnostic services in the country,'' he said in a statement.