The detection of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza at a commercial poultry operation in the County of Warner, Alberta, on the Montana border is a grim reminder that the disease remains a going concern despite a period of relative calm since last winter.
BC reported its last case in April, with spring migrations not unleashing a new wave of cases despite fears expressed at the BC Poultry Conference in March.
While the lack of cases is good news following a harrowing fall last year that ultimately saw nearly 3.7 million birds affected, the recent report from Alberta is a reminder to producers to maintain strong biosecurity protocols.
“The persistence of the virus in wildlife and recurrence of outbreaks globally, presents additional risks during the migratory bird season in North America later in 2023,” the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health in Vancouver advised in July.
It noted that the ongoing avian influenza outbreak, which began in late 2021, was persistent, “showing unprecedented spread through wild birds, poultry, and mammals in Canada and internationally.”
The persistence of the disease, and the ability of the virus to reassert, was particularly concerning.
“This suggests persistence of the virus among wild populations, and a need for continued vigilance among poultry and egg farmers,” the centre noted.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the latest case in Alberta is the first reported in Canada since May. A primary control zone has yet to be established around the farm.