Poultry farmers in British Columbia are under pressure to protect their flocks due to the highly contagious bird flu outbreak in North America.
Ray Nickel, spokesman for the BBC Poultry Emergency Management Center, said they would use the lessons learned to prevent the outbreak after two major outbreaks that have killed millions of birds since 2004.
The avian influenza H5N1 virus is contagious and can cause serious illness and death in birds, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Nickel, a member of the Absford Ford Poultry Farmer and a member of the BC Poultry Board, was concerned last week after the Avian Flu case was confirmed on a farm in northern Oakana.
“It’s very cruel, and the impact is so severe that we have a serious concern for our animals,” he said. “I feel like my peers in other regions are experiencing something more significant than we are at this time, but it creates a very uncomfortable fear within us.”
Similar epidemics have broken out in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The Canadian Food and Drug Administration said last week that it was an “unprecedented year for bird flu”.
Outbreaks in the pre-Christian era and in Canada have killed millions of birds. Most alarmingly, the 2004 H7N3 outbreak in the Fraser Valley spread to 42 commercial farms and 11 backyards, prompting federal authorities to order the arrest of nearly 17 million birds.
Nickel-BC operations are said to be specially equipped to respond to outbreaks of possible outbreaks.
“We know what it looks like. The good thing is to know what to expect, but on the other hand, no one wants to go through it. “
There are 578 poultry farms in the district and 80 percent of them are located in the Fraser Valley, which is located on the main course of migration on the Pacific Flyway.
He said the BC industry is focused on the Fraser Valley, adding that nickel farmers should take more responsibility for preventing the spread of the flu.
The flu is spread by contact with infected birds or faeces or runny nose. Outdoor birds are at risk because they can come in direct contact with infected wild birds or feces. People can unknowingly take the infection to a barn in shoes or clothing.
Nickel Bio-security and emergency management measures introduced after the 2004 pandemic have helped control the spread of the virus in 2009 and 2014, he said, adding that each pandemic has improved the region and its farmers’ response.
The association said the emergency response team, which operates in an emergency order structure similar to the Fire and Police Service, will enable the team to respond quickly to the flu. Protocols include tight procedures around changing locked doors, changing clothes and shoes, and controlling entrances and exits.
“It’s a very organized process,” he said. “BC is the only state in the state to have a mandatory bio safety program. Everyone across the country has a set of biosecurity measures, but because of 2004, BC has developed a mandatory district to be implemented by the Marketing Board.
Announcing the presence of avian influenza in Oakana farms last week, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the Canadian Food and Drug Administration is leading a response that includes testing, mapping, monitoring and animal disposal.
“All poultry producers, including backyard poultry owners, are encouraged to increase their biosectomy activities and stay alert and monitor the symptoms of avian influenza in their herds,” she said.
The BC Deputy Chief Veterinarian has also ordered all commercial poultry herds with more than 100 birds in the province to be relocated until the end of May, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The order states that the H5N1 avian influenza strain was detected in wild birds near Metro Vancouver earlier this year and that water birds are considered a major source of the virus and steps must be taken to limit their exposure to commercial chickens.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says the food industry is making adjustments to prevent a major outbreak to protect poultry and egg supply.
According to the CIA, no human diseases have been reported in Canada and the disease is not considered a major health risk for healthy people who do not have regular contact with infected birds.
This Canadian Press report was first published on April 20, 2022.
This article is sponsored by Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.