The Fraser Valley is home to 80% of British Columbia’s poultry farms. Today, bird flu threatens almost an entire industry

Members of BC’s poultry farming community fear an outbreak of avian flu is spreading rapidly in the Fraser Valley, home to 80% of the province’s farms.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed an outbreak of the highly infectious H5N1 avian influenza virus at a commercial turkey farm in Abbotsfordabout 71 kilometers southeast of Vancouver on Thursday.

It’s the 10th outbreak confirmed among poultry flocks in British Columbia, and the second of two large commercial operations affected, the other being confirmed in the interior of the province. Wildlife Across the countryand the continenthave been affected by the virus.

In 2004, an epidemic in the Fraser Valley resulted in the culling of more than 16 million birds, leaving farmers particularly worried about the potential impact of the current outbreak.

“We’re nervous. We saw what he can do, in 2004, where we lost the whole industry here in the Fraser Valley,” said Mark Siemens, who runs Siemens Farms in Abbotsford.

Siemens, who is also president of the BC Egg Producers’ Association, said Fraser Valley farmers have already faced many setbacks over the past year.

“As a farmer, we just feel like we really need a break. You know, we’ve been through a Heat wave last year, during a pandemic, and a floodand now this,” he said. “It’s really emotionally draining.”

Security measures in place

Although there have been no confirmed cases of bird flu in humans during the current outbreak, the disease can be deadly to birds, according to Lisa Bishop-Spencer, director of communications for Chicken Farmers of the Canada.

Bishop-Spencer says this is the first nationwide avian flu outbreak of this magnitude in Canada.

“If it’s an avian flu situation, that flock will be depopulated by the CFIA,” she said. “And then the CFIA kind of takes control of this site.”

The CFIA then issues quarantine orders for farms within 10 kilometers of the infected farm, according to Bishop-Spencer, which forms a “primary control zone” to try to isolate the outbreak.

She says quarantine measures and the culling of any infected flock can have a huge negative impact on farmers’ livelihoods.

In addition to quarantine measures, under a provincial order, commercial poultry producers with 100 or more birds are required to keep them indoors until June 13.

A sign reading “No Trespassing, Biosecurity in Effect” hangs outside a farmhouse in Abbotsford, British Columbia, on Friday. Quarantine measures are in effect for most farms in Abbotsford following the confirmation of a positive case of avian flu in a turkey farm. (Shawn Foss/CBC)

Another order requires bird owners not to take their birds to events such as bird auctions and flea markets until June 19.

Ray Nickel, who represents the BC Poultry Association at the emergency operations center set up to deal with the crisis, says the 2022 avian flu outbreak poses a significant threat to the industry.

“There is a reason this needs to be notified [to farmers]. It’s reportable because it’s such a virulent disease. It’s unlike anything else you’ll see in your herd,” he said.

Concern for wild birds and pelicans

There are also concerns for wild birds that transmit and are themselves infected with the virus.

“Bird flu is spread primarily by migrating birds. Birds can carry it and not be affected by it,” Nickel said.

“If birds are defecating in or around your facility and you don’t know it, cross it and move it to your barn, you could potentially be contaminated.”

The American white pelican, at risk of being lost in British Columbia and which has been placed on the province’s red list, has also been affected by bird flu, with one confirmed case so far. (Matt McKean/Associated Press)

British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests told CBC News that the province has received reports of suspected avian flu in pelicans at numerous lakes in the Cariboo region of central British Columbia’s interior. British.

One case has been confirmed in a pelican found at Alkali Lake. The American white pelican is on the British Columbia Red Listmeaning it is critically endangered due to habitat loss.

Wild birds, including a bald eagle, have also tested positive for H5 strains of bird flu at or near 100 Mile House, Bowen Island, Chilliwack, Kelowna, Metro Vancouver, Vanderhoof and Williams Lake, according to the province.