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Two cases of avian flu identified in Okanagan

Investigations underway in Central and North Okanagan

Avian influenza has reached the Okanagan again.

Despite being primarily in the Fraser Valley, the most recent cases are in the Central and North Okanagan.

A non-commercial poultry farm had the flu detected Dec. 14 in the North Okanagan.

A non-poultry, non-commercial farm in the Central Okanagan was detected to have the flu Dec. 9.

No primary control zone or status of order have been identified for either.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed 52 farms have been infected with the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus in B.C. since Oct. 20, 2023.

The majority, 47, are commercial farms and five are small-flock farms.

As the fall migration of wild birds over B.C. slows down, the frequency of cases has reduced over the past few weeks.

Staff with B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food are continuing to work closely with the CFIA and B.C. poultry producers to ensure enhanced biosecurity measures are in place to try to limit the spread of disease and protect flocks.

An industry-led webinar for producers, supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, CFIA, and public health officials, is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 19. Information will be shared with producers on public health, biosecurity measures and AgriStability (an income-support program) along with a general update about the outbreak. The BC Poultry Association is hosting the session and producers can contact them to register.

Earlier this year, the Province introduced a new $5-million Farmed Animal Disease Program to help support farmers with enhanced biosecurity measures, equipment for disease response, research and training so they can better prepare for and prevent the risk of disease, such as avian influenza.

While these important tools are in place to help prevent disease spread and protect flocks and farms, viruses can adapt and spread so it is important that farmers and small flock owners remain vigilant.

Avian influenza presents an extremely low risk to public health with no risk to food safety. There are currently no anticipated food supply disruptions of either eggs or poultry due to the virus.

For poultry owners who suspect their birds may have avian influenza, they should call their veterinarian, their nearest CFIA animal health office or the BC Animal Health Centre at 1-800-661-9903. If people find a sick or injured wild bird, they should leave it where it is and report it to B.C.’s wild bird surveillance hotline at 1-866-431-BIRD (2473).

Once the CFIA confirms positive tests, a process including quarantine, depopulation and disposal occurs.

B.C.’s Animal Health Centre has tested almost 45,000 samples for avian influenza since April 2022 and more than 6,500 since the fall outbreak began. The laboratory is available seven days per week for testing.

B.C.’s chief veterinarian issued two orders in October to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, including restrictions on poultry events such as shows, markets and auctions, as well as an order for commercial farms to keep their birds indoors.

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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