Poultry owners around the South Cariboo are being warned to take precautions in light of a confirmed outbreak of avian flu (H5N1) in the Okanagan.
Last week the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the highly contagious virus had been detected in a poultry flock near Enderby, prompting an order for all commercial poultry flocks of more than 100 birds to be moved indoors until the spring migration ends next month.
Bo McKinney, who runs a local farm and hatchery, told the Free Press there are a number of steps local poultry producers – including backyard chicken owners – can take to mitigate the risks.
McKinney said that avian flu can spread quite quickly and is often due to communal food and water sources, or perches contaminated with fecal matter.
“Ducks and waterfowl may carry this virus without showing any symptoms at all, so during this time it could be beneficial to separate them from other domesticated birds,” McKinney said.
Securing a “biohazard perimetre” around your coop to avoid tracking anything in, closing coops to visitors temporarily, having an enclosed chicken run if possible and putting away wild bird feeders at this time are all ways to help keep flocks safe, McKinney said.
“A largely missed factor is the tires on vehicles, but we all drive – to feed stores, drive on our farms, drive up to barns to unload,” McKinney added. “Tires are a huge opportunity for contamination. Keeping vehicles out of bio-perimeters and having visitors park away is a great idea.”
Symptoms of avian flu in chickens include loss of appetite and drops in production levels, but signs can vary from flock to flock, McKinney said, from runny noses and eyes to sudden death.
McKinney recommends following guidelines set out by the CFIA as well as checking with local poultry associations like the Cariboo Central Interior Poultry Producers Association.
The latest information about the avian flu outbreak can be found on the CFIA website at inspection.canada.ca