B.C. warns of spike in avian flu cases, including 1 on Vancouver Island

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The British Columbia government is warning of a rash of avian flu cases at poultry farms in the province, including at one backyard flock on Vancouver Island.

Since Oct. 20, there have been 16 confirmed cases of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in B.C.

Most of those cases are in the Lower Mainland though, one case was confirmed at a non-commercial flock in Port McNeill.

One other case was confirmed in Merritt, while the remaining 14 confirmed cases are all located at commercial poultry farms in the Fraser Valley.

The warming comes after a rash of avian flu cases were confirmed on Vancouver Island and across B.C. in late 2022 and early 2023.

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“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,” said the province in a release Wednesday.

The B.C. government says it’s working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and poultry farmers on increasing biosecurity measures.

In October, B.C.’s chief veterinarian issued two orders to try to curb the spread of the flu, including requiring commercial farms to keep their chickens indoors, and restricting poultry events – such as shows, markets and auctions.

The province adds that it created a $5 million “farmed animal disease program” earlier this year to help try to prepare the agriculture industry for animal diseases.

“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,” said the province.

Anyone who finds a sick or dead bird is asked not to touch it and report it to the B.C. wild bird surveillance hotline at 1-866-431-BIRD (2473).

Poultry farmers can also call their own veterinarian, the nearest CFIA animal health office, or the BC Animal Health Centre at 1-800-661-9903 if they believe one of their birds has the avian flu.

More information about the avian flu can be found on the CFIA website.

Adam Chan

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