Two new cases of avian influenza detected on Vancouver Island

Two new cases of avian influenza detected on Vancouver Island
Zachariah Smith/Unsplash

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed two new cases of avian influenza on Vancouver Island.

On Friday, a positive case was found in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and District of Tofino.

The District of Tofino posted a public notice on social media Saturday morning about its positive case.

“It has been recorded, a positive case of avian influenza in a non-commercial, small flock poultry,” said Dan Law, Tofino’s mayor. “So it is safe to say we are talking about a backyard chicken.”

Avian influenza is a serious disease that causes illness and death in birds. It is also known to be highly transmissible, which has raised concerns about it spreading to other poultry and birds across the districts.

The federal government said avian flu can be transmitted bird to bird through feces, secretions, contaminated water and equipment, as well as indirectly through human movement and contact.

Signs of bird flu include:

  • lack of energy, movement or appetite
  • decreased egg production
  • swelling around the head, neck and eyes
  • coughing, gasping for air or sneezing
  • nervous signs, tremors or lack of coordination
  • diarrhea
  • sudden death

“So we are getting the word out,” Law said. “It is a very serious disease for birds and it is very transmissible, and people should act with caution.”

Positive avian flu cases aren’t just in backyard chickens and poultry farms, as wild birds are also susceptible to the disease.

Ann Nightingale with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory told CHEK News it’s more commonly found in ducks, geese and the birds that prey upon them.

“So things like eagles, great horned owls and [birds that] scavenge upon them like turkey vultures, crows, ravens and birds that are associating with sick birds,” Nightingale said.

She added it is extremely unlikely for songbirds to contract the disease.

The government said there are a number of ways residents can protect themselves, their birds and wildlife from avian influenza.

This includes preventing contact with wild birds or other animals, frequently cleaning poultry coops, waterers, feeders and clothing, limiting exposures to visitors and keeping new birds separate when entering them into a flock.

It added those who suspect their birds are infected should call a veterinarian or the nearest CFIA animal health office to get tested as soon as possible.

Anyone who finds a sick or dead wild bird is encouraged to call the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.

More information on avian flu statuses in B.C. can be found on the provincial government’s website.

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