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Avian Influenza cases increasing in B.C.

November 8, 2023 at 11:11 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed that birds at eight commercial poultry farms in the Fraser Valley and two small flocks in Merritt and Port McNeill have tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus bringing the total to 16 confirmed cases since Oct. 20, 2023.

Staff with B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food continue to work with the CFIA and poultry producers to ensure enhanced biosecurity measures are in place to try to limit the spread of disease and protect flocks.

The fall migration of wild birds is typically when the disease is at highest risk of spreading from wild birds, usually waterfowl, to poultry on farms or in backyard flocks.

B.C.’s chief veterinarian issued two orders in October to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, including restrictions on poultry events, such as shows, markets and auctions, as well as an order for commercial farms to keep their birds indoors.

The Province also introduced a new $5-million Farmed Animal Disease Program earlier this year to help farmers prepare for the risk of animal disease, such as avian influenza. The program helps fund the planning and purchasing of equipment needed for disease response, training exercises, enhanced biosecurity measures, and the research and implementation of strategies to reduce the risk of infection and disease.

While these are important tools to help prevent disease spread and protect flocks and farms, viruses can adapt and spread so it is important that farmers and small flock owners remain vigilant.

If people find a sick or dead bird, they should leave it where it is and report it to B.C.’s wild bird surveillance hotline at 1 866 431-BIRD (2473). For poultry owners who suspect their birds may have avian influenza, they should call their veterinarian, their nearest CFIA animal health office or the BC Animal Health Centre at 1 800 661-9903.

Quick Facts:

  • Avian influenza is a federally regulated disease, and the CFIA leads the investigation and response with provincial support for testing, mapping, surveillance and disposal.
  • Once the CFIA confirms positive tests a process including quarantine, depopulation and disposal occurs.
  • B.C.’s Animal Health Centre has tested approximately 900 samples since the start of the fall 2023 outbreak and more than 39,000 tests since April 2022.
  • The laboratory is available for testing seven days a week.
  • In addition, staff at the Animal Health Centre’s lab is doing genomic testing in partnership with the BC Centre for Disease Control to get a better idea of how the virus is spreading in B.C.

Learn More:

For CFIA information about current state of avian influenza in Canada, visit: https://inspection.canada.ca/animal-health/terrestrial-animals/diseases/reportable/avian-influenza/latest-bird-flu-situation/status-of-ongoing-avian-influenza-response/eng/1640207916497/1640207916934

To see a CFIA factsheet about avian influenza, visit: https://inspection.canada.ca/animal-health/terrestrial-animals/diseases/reportable/avian-influenza/fact-sheet/eng/1356193731667/1356193918453#a2

For Ministry of Agriculture and Food information about avian Influenza, including what to be on the lookout for, resources for small-flock owners, chief veterinarian’s orders and information on testing, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/animals-and-crops/animal-health/reportable-notifiable-diseases/avian-influenza-ai

For a full list of resources for dealing with sick, injured or dead wildlife, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/wildlife/wildlife-conservation/wildlife-health/what-to-do-if-you-find-sick-injured-or-dead-wildlife

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