The number of commercial poultry farms in the Fraser Valley testing positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza has exploded over the past week.
Thirteen commercial farms in Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Agassiz have tested positive over the past week, nearly double the number reported this year prior to November 16. The surge is shocking in its speed and concentration, coming after four weeks in which no cases were reported.
But the BC Poultry Association’s emergency operations centre says there is no indication yet of farm-to-farm transfer.
“To the best of our knowledge at this point in time, we do not think there was any mechanical transmission of AI between farms,” says BCPA spokesperson Amanda Brittain.
While the wind can blow contaminated material across the control zones established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, this is not known to have happened. However, CFIA and vets are analyzing samples to determine the relationship, if any, between viruses.
“It takes time to do the research on how the birds got sick,” Brittain says.
The recent cases push BC firmly over the 300,000 mark in terms of birds affected. While the province is the least-impacted by the disease outside of Atlantic Canada, it ranks second in terms of premises with 42 properties infected this year.
Alberta has been the hardest-hit province overall, with 1.4 million birds on 60 premises impacted.
BC growers continue to maintain red-level biosecurity protocols, which were credited through October with keeping infections on commercial farms low.
Tight lines around production facilities are also encouraged, to limit cleaning and disinfection when an outbreak occurs. This includes storing barn equipment within the biosecurity zone rather than in a garage attached to a house.
Chicken growers meeting in Abbotsford last month were warned that in the event of a positive test result, the CFIA will require all farm equipment and the premises where they’re kept cleaned and disinfected. The smaller the disinfection zone, the less work and disruption to the grower.