The spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza to the Fraser Valley has pushed the total number of birds affected in BC to nearly 73,500 across 12 properties.
The past week has seen four new outbreaks, including two commercial poultry operations in West Abbotsford and a small-lot operation near Osprey Lake, between Princeton and Summerland.
Two new primary control zones have been established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, bringing the total in the province to seven since the first outbreak was confirmed April 13.
Poultry producers in the province continue to follow red-level biosecurity protocols, backed up by a provincial order requiring commercial flocks to be kept indoors until June 13 in order to prevent exposure to migrating birds. Wild fowl are considered a primary way the disease is introduced to domestic flocks.
But the ongoing outbreaks as seasonal bird migrations end concerns producers, says Ray Nickel of the BC Poultry Association.
“[You] have this ongoing uncertainty as to why this is happening, because we’re following protocols and rules yet we still seem to be getting outbreaks,” he says. “The good news is it’s warming up, so hopefully this summertime weather will bring some of this to an end.”
The outbreak in the Fraser Valley, home to 80% of poultry production in BC, has affected just 19,300 commercial birds to date, primarily turkeys.
Outbreaks in small flocks continue to characterize this year’s cases of avian influenza, unlike outbreaks in 2004 and 2014-2015, which had significant impacts on commercial producers.
Yet with more than 50 commercial operations in the Abbotsford control zone, producers aren’t resting easy.
“Where this one is located, we have a significant number of farms and operations and species in there. It will compound it for all four of the feather groups,” says Nickel. “This is totally a commercial story now.”