The latest date for a case of avian influenza during a winter outbreak in BC is February 19, chicken producers were told at their latest general meeting last month.
With that date fast approaching, the lack of cases since January 22 has been good news for poultry growers.
But that’s no reason to relax, Woody Siemens, executive director of the BC Chicken Marketing Board, told growers.
“I’m not too optimistic we’re out of this yet,” he said, encouraging producers to continue maintaining strong biosecurity protocols. The last detection in the province was at a commercial poultry farm in Chilliwack within the hardest hit control zone, which is home to 25 of the 71 commercial premises infected since November 16, when the disease exploded on commercial farms in the Fraser Valley.
But at the same time, 18 of the 74 primary control zones designated since mid-November have been lifted, pointing to light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite the good news, the imminent start of spring bird migrations is cause for concern. Similar to last year, cases are starting to be reported in Eastern Canada, which is where the disease touched down in Canada before moving to arrive in BC last April.
Siemens himself underscored the risk, telling producers that a lack of late-winter detections doesn’t negate the risk of a spring resurgence.
Gregorio Torres, the head of the science department at the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health, an intergovernmental group and global authority on animal diseases, told the
Reuters news agency that the current strain of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus is here to stay.
The latest data indicate that nearly 3.7 million birds have been affected in BC and more than 65.5 million in North America.
All told, 54 countries have reported highly pathogenic AI since the current outbreak began in Europe in late 2021. Most recently, migratory birds have introduced it to countries in South America, and will likely bring it back with them when they return this spring, continuing the worldwide spread.
As one US producer told Reuters: “You’d better buckle up and hold on for your dear life.”