B.C.’s Agriculture Ministry says eight commercial poultry farms in the Fraser Valley and two small flocks in Merritt and Port McNeill have tested positive for avian influenza.
A release from the province Wednesday (Nov. 8) says there have been 16 confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus since Oct. 20, 2023. The province adds that its animal health centre has tested approximately 900 samples since the start of the outbreak this fall, with more than 39,000 tests since April 2022.
In Chilliwack, the province was conducting tests after dozens of dead geese and other waterfowl had to be fished out of a local pond.
The ministry says it continues to work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and poultry producers to ensure enhanced biosecurity measures are in place to try to limit the spread of disease and protect flocks.
Avian flu is a federally regulated disease and the food inspection agency leads investigations and responses with provincial support for testing, mapping surveillance and disposal. Once a flock tests positive, there is a process that include quarantine, depopulation and disposal.
B.C.’s chief veterinarian issued two orders in October to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. It included restrictions on poultry events such as shows, markets and auctions, as well as an order for commercial farms to keep their birds indoors.
It’s during the fall migration of wild birds when the disease is typically at the highest risk, the ministry notes, and it spreads from wild birds, usually waterfowl, to poultry on farms or in backyard flocks.
The province says 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.
– With files from Jennifer Feinberg