Poultry producers across the province are once more on high alert for highly pathogenic avian influenza after three positive test results in the past week.
The industry went back to red level biosecurity protocols September 12 following a potential case in the Fraser Valley. The disease was confirmed at a commercial flock in Chilliwack with approximately 23,000 birds on September 14, with a 10-kilometre control zone announced the following day.
Since then, cases have been confirmed in small flocks in Spallumcheen and Williams Lake. The two flocks are classified as “non-poultry,” meaning that the birds were kept for household use or non-food purposes.
The cases are the first in the province since June 18, and follow the relaxing of restrictions in early August when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revoked the last of the control zones established following outbreaks this spring.
A total of 21 flocks representing more than 183,000 birds have been affected by this year’s outbreaks, which have been linked to wild bird migrations.
The first case in April resulted in commercial flocks being ordered indoors for the duration of the outbreak, to prevent exposure to wild birds. That order was reissued September 14 for an indefinite period.
Small flocks are exempt from the order, but small-lot producers have been encouraged to follow the protocols set forth by the Small-Scale Meat Producers Association.
With the fall bird migration beginning, the new cases underscore the importance of strong biosecurity protocols.
“All poultry owners are encouraged to enhance current biosecurity measures and to familiarize themselves with the signs of avian influenza and the appropriate reporting stream,” a bulletin from the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food states. “Poultry owners should pay particular attention for signs of illness in the months ahead, and work with their veterinarian for any diagnosis and disease reporting support.”
The province says it is planning public information sessions in 11 communities for small-flock poultry owners to help them prevent, recognize and report the virus.
“The sessions are being scheduled for late September until November to reach small flock owners in the Cariboo, Okanagan, Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland, Prince George area and Vancouver Island, with the schedules and locations to be announced once confirmed,” the province says.