Officials investigate suspected case of avian flu in Cowichan Valley

Officials investigate suspected case of avian flu in Cowichan Valley
File photo.

Concerns about a possible outbreak of avian flu in the Cowichan Valley have prompted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to identify a “premises of concern” in the region.

The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food confirmed Friday that the CFIA is investigating a report of a flock that may have contracted the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus.

The Salt Spring Island Poultry Club said it has rescheduled its annual poultry show due to the threat of avian flu after a member in Cowichan Bay was notified of possible cases in Mill Bay, within 12 kilometres of their farm.

The update has not yet been confirmed by the CFIA, which has so far only confirmed one current H5N1 case in the province at a farm in North Okanagan on April 13.

That farm has been placed under quarantine as CFIA conducts an investigation and movement control on other farms in the area.

The CFIA says it does not release information about suspected cases, and if H5N1 is confirmed at the Mill Bay premises the information will be posted on its website.

The CFIA said last week it’s been an “unprecedented” year around the world for cases of avian flu, suspecting that migratory birds are responsible for spreading the virus.

B.C.’s worst avian flu outbreak occurred in 2004, when the H7N3 strain led to a cull of about 17-million birds in the Fraser Valley.

The disease is spread through contact with an infected bird, its feces, or nasal secretions. Farm birds that go outside are most at risk because they can come in direct contact with infected wild birds or their feces. Humans can also inadvertently carry the infection into a barn on their shoes or clothing.

-With files from The Canadian Press.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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