Avian flu spreads to 50 farms in British Columbia

Avian flu spreads to 50 farms in British Columbia
Chickens are seen at a poultry farm in Abbotsford, B.C., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

The province is warning farmers that a highly contagious avian flu has been detected in more than 50 farms since late October.

As of Thursday, 52 farms in the province have had confirmed cases of H5N1 since Oct. 20.

Most of those farms – a total of 47 – are located in the Lower Mainland, though two are located on Vancouver Island.

The illness was confirmed at a backyard chicken farm in Port McNeill on Nov. 7.

One day later, on Nov. 8, the avian flu was also confirmed at a non-commercial chicken site in Qualicum Beach.

The Qualicum Beach location is still considered active as of Thursday. It’s unclear if the illness is still active in Port McNeill, with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency listing the status of its illness as “N/A” on its website.

The illness was also detected at two Island farms in January – in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and District of Tofino – but both farms have since been cleared of the avian flu.

“Avian influenza presents an extremely low risk to public health with no risk to food safety,” said the province in a release Thursday.

“There are currently no anticipated food supply disruptions of either eggs or poultry due to the virus.”

READ ALSO: Fear of avian flu descends on B.C. farms as millions of chickens are killed

The province says it’s working with the CFIA and B.C. poultry producers to make sure that biosecurity measures are as tight as possible to limit the spread of the illness.

It’s also hosting a webinar for poultry producers on Dec. 19, which will include information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, CFIA and public health officials.

Poultry farmers interested in joining the webinar can contact the BC Poultry Association to register.

The province notes that it also launched a new $5 million program this year, called the Farmed Animal Disease Program, which helps farmers access disease response equipment, research and training.

Anyone who owns a bird who thinks it may have avian influenza is asked to call their vet, their nearest CFIA animal health office or the BC Animal Health Centre at 1-800-661-9903.

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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