Avian flu has hit the North Island as part of multiple recently confirmed B.C. outbreaks.
According to a media release from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirms two small flocks of poultry in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the Regional District of Mount Waddington have tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus, along with eight commercial poultry farms in the Fraser Valley.
The ministry had initially reported the small flocks as being in Port McNeill and Merritt, but later clarified the locations were in the surrounding regional districts.
Town of Port McNeill Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Johnson confirmed the town has an animal control bylaw that states “No owner shall keep any livestock, horses, donkeys, or poultry on any property within the Town.”
These cases bring the total to 16 confirmed cases in B.C. since Oct. 20, 2023.
Meanwhile, staff with B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food continue to work with the CFIA and poultry producers to ensure enhanced biosecurity measures are in place to try to limit the spread of disease and protect flocks.
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.
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.
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.
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 Lauren Collins and Jennifer Feinberg