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By Sybille de La Hamaide
PARIS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Canada reported an outbreak of the highly pathogenic bird flu virus H5N1 in the province of British Columbia, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Monday.
The outbreak was detected on Feb. 2 in a backyard poultry flock in the province of British Columbia, where bird flu cases of the separate H5N2 strain had been reported in December, it said, citing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
The agency stressed that H5N1 avian influenza had not been reported in a commercial poultry flock in Canada and that the virus found in British Columbia was different from a strain circulating in Asia.
High pathogenic H5N1 bird flu first infected humans in 1997 in Hong Kong. It has since spread from Asia to Europe and Africa and has become entrenched in poultry in some countries, causing millions of poultry infections and several hundred human deaths.
"Based on the limited partial sequence of the H5 and N1 gene segments obtained this far, it appears very likely that this is the same or a very similar virus to the ... H5N1 virus in Washington State, but more sequencing will be needed to make a final conclusion," the CFIA said in its report.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu was found earlier this year on a green-winged teal in the U.S. state of Washington near the border with Canada. (Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Gus Trompiz and David Holmes)