Avian flu. It’s a thing and it’s scary. It can wipe out flocks of birds overnight.The last time the ducks and chickens at Point 6 Acre went into lock-down was June, 2022.
At the moment, there are outbreaks of Avian flu on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. This is some distance from our little farm, but close enough to be of concern. Enough the Government of BC issued the following:
Avian Influenza in British Columbia
Since October 21st, 2023, new cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) have been detected at poultry premises in British Columbia. Prior to this, there had been no new cases since April 2023. Wild birds are the source of HPAI virus, and the fall wild bird migration brings increased viral contamination of the environment. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the lead agency for HPAI response. More information on the CFIA response can be found here: Status of ongoing avian influenza response by province – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)
Bird owners should look for signs of HPAI in their flocks, such as a sudden, unexplained increase in mortality. They are legally responsible to notify authorities of serious bird diseases such as bird flu. Do not take sick or dead birds off the property.
If you suspect birds you own have avian influenza:
- Call your veterinarian
- Contact your nearest Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Animal Health office
- Call the BC Animal Health Centre at 1-800-661-9903
- During this high-risk period, it is very important that all poultry owners take actions to protect their flocks. Limit Access and Increase Hygiene:
- Restrict access to your farm and poultry areas. Only essential workers and vehicles should be allowed.
- Ensure all personnel and visitors disinfect their footwear and hands before entering and leaving poultry areas. Use dedicated clothing and footwear for bird areas.
- Separate wild birds from poultry:
- Keep poultry indoors when possible
- Fence off poultry access to ground water sources like ponds and streams.
- Store feed and water in sealed and covered containers.
- Keep feeders inside the coop, and only throw out enough scratch to allow birds to clean it up.
- Ensure feed and water is not contaminated with wild bird feces.
- Avoid using surface water from ponds or streams for poultry.
- Avoid Mixing Birds & Control Movements:
- Do not move birds between different locations unless absolutely necessary.
- Avoid introducing new birds into established flocks without a quarantine period.
- Monitor Your Birds and Report Illness:
- Monitor your flock daily for any signs of illness or unexpected deaths. Early detection is crucial.
For additional information, please see the attached infographic.
Effective October 20, 2023, the Chief Veterinarian has issued General Order AIV 2023-03. This order states that all persons responsible for regulated quota poultry must keep birds indoors.
Effective October 27, 2023 the Chief Veterinarian has issued General Order AIV 2023-04. This order limits the commingling of birds throughout BC and prohibits commingling within areas of the Lower Mainland.
To review recent detections of HPAI in BC and Canada, you can access the HPAI Primary Control Zone map on the CFIA’s website.
If your flock is in an active HPAI Primary Control Zone, you will need a permit to move your birds, their products, and by-products. Permits are required for both small and commercial flocks. Use CFIA’s interactive tool to find information on permits and conditions.
Ministry of Agriculture Resources
Information about Ministry of Agriculture resources is available at Avian influenza (AI) – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)
The BC Animal Health Center laboratory is providing testing for HPAI.
For all other inquiries, contact AgriServiceBC at 1-888-221-7141.
The current strain of avian influenza (H5N1) circulating in birds in North America poses low risk to the general public and their pets, but there is potential for severe impact to humans. Influenza viruses are changeable; when strains from humans or different animal species mix and exchange genetic information, it could have serious consequences if the virus develops the ability to spread from person to person. Bird handlers, such as farmers and workers, need to be particularly vigilant because they are at higher risk of exposure to potentially infected birds.
The following precautions are recommended for farmers and workers who come into contact with sick or dead birds:
- Wear personal protective equipment
- The updated seasonal influenza vaccine is recommended in advance of the typical respiratory virus season for people working with live poultry.
- Farm personnel not directly involved in culling activities should avoid exposure to infected birds, manure, or surfaces that may be contaminated with AI virus.
- Avoid transporting the virus on footwear and pets’ feet to other locations, which could potentially infect domestic poultry, pet birds or wild birds
- Follow instructions from local public health, who will follow up with potentially exposed workers and conduct a risk assessment.
All members of the public should stay away from sick wild birds or animals.
- If sick or dead wild birds are observed, contact the Wild Bird Mortality Investigation Program at 1-866-431-BIRD (2473). A biologist may collect the bird for further testing, if needed. More information is available on how B.C. is monitoring wild birds for AI
- For wild mammals (e.g., foxes, mink, skunks) who are found alive and are acting strangely or showing signs of neurological illness (e.g., seizures, tremors, circling, excess salivation, inability to walk), contact the BC Wildlife Health Program at 250-751-7246 during regular business hours. After hours, please leave a message or contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitator.
I’ll take the necessary precautions. Though a flock of three ducks and five chickens seems ridiculously small to some, they are part of the farm and livelihood. I receive $1 per duck egg during the laying season. This small income pays for the poultry feed. We all know, every bit helps in these unpredictable times. And, the chicken eggs feed us.
What about you? Is Avian flu an issue where you live? Do you practice biosecurity?