ARCHIVED — Regulations Amending the Reportable Diseases Regulations

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Vol. 144, No. 10 — May 12, 2010

Registration

SOR/2010-85 April 22, 2010

HEALTH OF ANIMALS ACT

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, pursuant to subsection 2(2) of the Health of Animals Act (see footnote a), hereby makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Reportable Diseases Regulations.

Ottawa, March 19, 2010

GERRY RITZ
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

REGULATIONS AMENDING THE REPORTABLE DISEASES REGULATIONS

AMENDMENTS

1. Item 5 of the schedule to the Reportable Diseases Regulations (see footnote 1) is replaced by the following:

Item

Disease

5.

bluetongue (serotypes not listed in item 6.1 of Schedule VII to the Health of Animals Regulations)

2. Item 13 of the schedule to the French version of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

Article

Maladie

13.

influenza aviaire hautement pathogène

COMING INTO FORCE

3. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.

REGULATORY IMPACT
ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)

Issue and objectives

Bluetongue is a non-contagious, insect-borne disease that affects ruminant animals. Changes to Canada’s import policy on February 1, 2007, eliminated bluetongue-related control measures (testing requirements) for all ruminant animals imported from the United States (U.S.). These changes facilitated live cattle commerce and enhanced Canada-U.S. trade relations, but they also resulted in an inconsistency in Canada’s approach to this disease in domestic ruminants. Currently, anyone with the care and control of ruminant animals who suspects that they may be suffering from bluetongue is required to immediately notify a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) veterinary inspector of this suspicion; they may be subject to offence provisions if they do not do so. This level of obligation and sanction is not consistent with the new import policy. It will be more appropriate to allow the U.S. serotypes of bluetongue to be covered by a less severe reporting scheme, while maintaining the current status for exotic serotypes of bluetongue.

This regulatory amendment will remove the serotypes of bluetongue considered endemic in the U.S. from the reportable diseases list, while a concurrent amendment will add them to the immediately notifiable diseases list so that international reporting obligations for bluetongue to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) are maintained.

Description and rationale

This regulatory amendment is one part of two complementary amendments that seek to change the status of certain serotypes of bluetongue virus endemic to the U.S. from “reportable” to “immediately notifiable” diseases.

The entry for bluetongue (Item 5) in the Schedule of Reportable Diseases of the Reportable Diseases Regulations (Regulations) will be modified to specify that bluetongue serotypes 2, 10, 11, 13 and 17 are no longer reportable. All remaining bluetongue serotypes remain reportable. This is consistent with the approach taken by the United States Department of Agriculture — Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS).

A concurrent regulatory amendment to Schedule VII of the Health of Animals Regulations will add bluetongue serotypes 2, 10, 11, 13 and 17 to the list of immediately notifiable diseases.

Subsections 5(1) and (2) of the Health of Animals Act require owners (or anyone having the care or control of an animal), veterinarians and laboratories to immediately report to a CFIA veterinary inspector when one of the 32 diseases listed in the Reportable Diseases Regulations is suspected to be present in an animal under their care, or when the person becomes aware of any fact indicating the disease’s presence. The CFIA then takes action to either control (prevent the spread) or eradicate (eliminate from Canada) the disease.

Immediately notifiable diseases are set out in Schedule VII of the Health of Animals Regulations. In general, immediately notifiable diseases are diseases exotic to Canada, of less concern than reportable diseases, and for which control or eradication programs do not necessarily exist. (This category also includes some indigenous diseases already present in Canada of trade concern.) Only laboratories are required to contact the CFIA regarding the suspicion or diagnosis of one of these diseases. When notified, the CFIA reports the presence of the disease to trading partners and the OIE as required. Maintaining the U.S. serotypes on the immediately notifiable diseases list will also allow the CFIA to investigate and assess whether the risk of U.S. serotypes have changed.

Bluetongue is a viral disease of domestic and wild ruminant animals that can only be transmitted by biting insects of certain species of Culicoides (also known as midges or “no-see-ums”). Bluetongue virus cannot be spread directly from one infected animal to another animal. Infection in cattle, goats and elk is generally unapparent or mild, but sheep and white-tailed deer may be severely infected and death is possible. Bluetongue does not pose any human health risk.

Worldwide, there exist 25 serotypes of bluetongue virus with 5 serotypes occurring in North America; 8 in Central America and the Carribean; 8 in Australia; and 20 in Africa. With respect to the 5 bluetongue serotypes considered endemic in the U.S. (2, 10, 11, 13 and 17), the midge species that is able to transmit the virus is not considered present in Canada east of the Ontario-Manitoba border. The midge does exist in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, and in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba south of 53° north latitude.

Under the bluetongue import control measures in force until February 2007, Canada had experienced 5 incursions over a 30-year period of two bluetongue serotypes (11 and 17) in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. The incursions were believed to be a result of southerly winds lofting and depositing infected midges from the U.S.

While some ruminant species such as sheep and white-tailed deer may be severely affected by the bluetongue virus, significant clinical disease and death losses are typically seen in climatic zones not found in Canada. Four climatic zones, based on the average duration of the frost-free period each year, have been defined in the U.S. Two zones that are located in northern U.S. states are applicable to Canada. Bluetongue has either not been reported in these zones or its prevalence is very low. Even in the Okanagan Valley, which is the only area in Canada where bluetongue has occurred and which would arguably provide the most suitable climatic conditions for the spread of bluetongue of any area in Canada, significant clinical disease or death losses in sheep and white-tailed deer have only been reported once in 1987–88, and that incident was confounded by the presence of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD).

It is not anticipated that this regulatory change will have a significant impact on the environment.

As a result of the removal of bluetongue import control measures for ruminant animals from the U.S., it is now possible that bluetongue may be introduced to Canada through the importation of infected ruminants to where there are midges capable of further transmitting the virus. However, a 2004 study found that the midge species known to transmit bluetongue in the U.S. is at the northernmost limit of its range and has a very poor capacity to transmit bluetongue in Western Canada. Additionally, according to current knowledge, bluetongue virus is not able to overwinter in Canada. Thus, the updated scientific risk analysis presented in the 2006 CFIA consultation paper, An Overview of Bluetongue and Assessing the Risks for Canada, concluded that the risk for bluetongue serotypes 2, 10, 11, 13 and 17 to establish in Canadian livestock and in wildlife was limited. The 2006 consultation paper (closed 2006-05-31) is available online at www.inspection.gc.ca/ english/anima/heasan/disemala/blufie/blufie-consul-2e.shtml.

Removing bluetongue from the reportable diseases list will mean that the CFIA will no longer respond to bluetongue disease due to serotypes 2, 10, 11, 13 and 17. The CFIA plans to enhance its bluetongue surveillance activities. This surveillance, coupled with ongoing research and risk assessments, will provide ongoing confirmation that risks to Canadian livestock and wildlife remain very low.

Easing import control measures also meant that restrictions for animals moving out of the Okanagan Valley (which has experienced incursions of the bluetongue virus in the past) to other areas in Canada will not apply, even if bluetongue activity is detected.

By making bluetongue virus (serotypes 2, 10, 11, 13 and 17) an immediately notifiable disease (via a concurrent regulatory amendment to the Health of Animals Regulations), the CFIA will still be able to fulfill its international reporting obligations to trading partners and the OIE.

This amendment, along with the 2007 import policy changes and changes to the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code in May 2007, could result in international trading partners not recognizing Canada’s bluetongue-free status as being in full compliance with the OIE code. Trading partners should recognize Eastern Canada from the Ontario-Manitoba border to the Atlantic provinces as a bluetongue-free zone once surveillance systems meeting OIE guidelines are implemented, and because the midge species that transmits bluetongue virus does not exist in these areas. Further scientific research and surveillance may be required to substantiate a bluetongue-free status for Western Canada. Should evidence of bluetongue virus transmission occur in Western Canada, restrictions might only be applied to this location provided surveillance systems meeting OIE guidelines are maintained.

Traditionally, greater than 99% of live cattle exports from Canada (approximately C$1.6 billion in 2007) are to the U.S. where bluetongue is a non-regulated disease at the federal level. It is therefore unlikely that export of cattle to the U.S. will be adversely affected as a result of this regulatory amendment. Less than 2% of total exports of live ruminant animals are to overseas markets.

The only ruminant commodities for which export to other countries significantly exceeds export to the U.S. are semen and embryos (C$77.26 million for semen and C$8.97 million for embryos in 2007 with 43% of semen sales to the U.S.). While a complete ban on these commodities will be highly unlikely as a result of this amendment, there may be some restrictions applied for a period of time to markets which may be more sensitive to the presence of bluetongue.

Enhanced domestic surveillance activities, together with ongoing research on the capacity of the potential vectors to transmit bluetongue virus, could provide evidence to trading partners that bluetongue is either not a risk in Canada outside the Okanagan Valley, or that potential transmission cycles are limited to a very narrow window in mid-to-late summer and perhaps in some years in the early fall.

Consultation

The May 2006 consultation paper, An Overview of Bluetongue and Assessing the Risks for Canada, was submitted to industry groups. The consultation was largely focused on possible changes to the import policy, but also included the proposed removal of bluetongue testing requirements from the import policy for ruminants from the U.S., as well as the removal of the serotypes endemic to the U.S. from the list of reportable diseases.

In total, 28 written submissions were received from 6 broad groups: other federal departments; provincial governments; organizations and industries; private individuals and companies; U.S. organizations and industries; and a U.S. state government.

Twenty-one of the submissions, including four from the U.S., were fully supportive of the amendment or were supportive with some concerns.

Fully supportive comments received from some provincial cattle, bovine and other livestock associations, as well three of six provincial governments and several individual enterprises were in strong favour of the removal of bluetongue import restrictions and this associated regulatory amendment. The Alberta Beef Producers Association stated “the risk bluetongue poses to Canada’s livestock industry is insignificant compared to the damages due to the restriction of normalized trade with the U.S.” The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association “believes that the CFIA’s research related to bluetongue — in addition to protecting the health of livestock — will also help to resolve some of the long-standing trade issues between Canada and the U.S.” The CFIA was also directed, through many of the comments received, to conduct the enhanced surveillance and ongoing vector research as proposed in its consultations.

Concerns received through submitted comments included the potential loss of Canada’s bluetongue-free status and the impact on exports of breeding animals, semen and embryos; the size, scope and management of the indemnity fund proposed by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) to cover potential death losses in sheep; and concerns that CFIA will no longer impose controls on any bluetongue incursions if and when they were to arise in the future.

The CFIA published responses to all comments received in a summary report, available online at www.inspection.gc.ca/english/anima/heasan/disemala/blufie/consult2007/analyse.shtml.

The CFIA will continue to liaise with industry groups to address outstanding concerns and will prioritize negotiations with trading partners to maintain export markets.

These amendments were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on July 4, 2009, with a 30-day comment period. One comment supporting the amendment was received from the CCA.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

Although bluetongue serotypes 2, 10, 11, 13 and 17 are being removed from the Reportable Diseases Regulations, they will to be added to the list of immediately notifiable diseases list in Schedule VII to the Health of Animals Regulations. Enhanced domestic surveillance activities to substantiate bluetongue-free and seasonally-free zones within Canada are currently being developed. Provincial laboratories may become involved in certification of bluetongue-free areas or screening for disease diagnosis.

Contact

Dorothy W. Geale, BSc (Hons) PhD DVM
Senior Staff Veterinarian
Foreign Animal Disease
Terrestrial Animal Health Division
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
185 King Street, Unit 203
Peterborough, Ontario
K9J 2R8

Footnote a
S.C. 1990, c. 21

Footnote 1
SOR/91-2