More than 30 farms in B.C.’s Fraser Valley have tested positive for avian flu, also known as bird flu.
“Stress and anxiety levels are off the charts,” said Amanda Birttain, spokesperson for the B.C. Poultry Emergency Operations Centre. “Since Oct. 20, we’ve had 36 infected farms and we do not see an end in sight yet.”
Brittain calls the recent spike the worst she’s seen in her twenty years working in the industry.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) told CTV News that five million birds in B.C. have either died or been euthanized since the first case in the province in April 2022.
“Primary Control Zones (PCZs) have been established in the 10 km surrounding each of the infected premises,” said the CFIA in an email to CTV News. “Disease surveillance is done within the PCZ to determine if there has been any disease spread and mitigate the risk of infection at other premises.”
When avian flu is detected at a farm, all birds are euthanized in order to prevent further spread of the disease.
“Watching friends of mine lose their birds is heart-wrenching,” said Juschka Clarke, an egg farmer from Chilliwack.
Clarke says she knows of a handful of farmers who’ve had to euthanize their entire flock and start from scratch. She adds that the emotional and financial toll can be devastating.
“Our stress level’s pretty high right now. We pride ourselves in keeping our birds healthy and happy,” said Clarke. “We’re watching farmers struggle hard.”
Clarke says she’s started taking extra precautions to try and keep her farm safe.
“Everybody’s had heightened biosecurity, meaning that we don’t allow a lot of traffic on and off our farm.”
In addition to birds, other animals including skunks and foxes have tested positive for the virus.
Pets can also be vulnerable if they eat or come in close contact with a sick or dead bird infected with the disease.
The risk for humans is considered very low.
“The humans who have ever caught influenza have had prolonged exposure to sick or dying birds, so you don’t have to worry about driving by a farm or catching anything,” said Brittain.
Brittain says despite the concern for farmers and high numbers of birds killed and euthanized, overall poultry supply remains stable. She adds that as of right now, she doesn’t expect avian flu to impact the price of poultry.