'Everybody is concerned': Third B.C. farm confirms avian flu outbreak

The Canadian Food and Inspection Agency has confirmed a third outbreak of a highly pathogenic avian influenza strain in B.C.

The H5N1 strain of avian flu is highly pathogenic and can cause serious disease and death in birds | Photo: Anthony Lee/OJO Images/Getty Images

The Canadian Food and Inspection Agency has confirmed a third outbreak of a deadly avian influenza strain in a small flock in the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

“Everybody is concerned. We are at our highest biosecurity level, which is red. And we are trying to protect our flocks,” said BC Egg Marketing Board spokesperson Amanda Brittain.

The latest outbreak comes four days after an outbreak in a backyard poultry flock in Kelowna which prompted the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency, together with B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, to warn poultry producers in a 12-kilometre radius of the infected flock.

And last week, a commercial poultry farm north of Enderby, B.C., was placed under quarantine after the contagious bird flu was detected in its animals. Another Burton, B.C., farmer Peggy Ife told CBC News she has lost 80 per cent of her flock after 70 chickens dropped dead from what she suspects is the bird flu. Ife said CFIA inspectors visited her farm Monday to take samples.

It's unclear whether the latest confirmed outbreak corresponds to Ife's flock.

“Peggy lives two or three kilometres from me,” said Forest McCormack, who runs the fourth-generation McCormack Farm. “I can lock my birds up and follow all these protocols. At the end of the day, it’s not a sealed medical facility. 

“It’s one of those situations where you just have to overcome as a farmer.”

The B.C. Minister of Agriculture and Food has warned owners of backyard flocks to remain “vigilant,” and reduce or eliminate encounters with wild birds and humans. It also recommended owners ramp up the disinfection of clothing and footwear. 

Several wild birds have also been found with the virus.

In Delta, a recent sample from a bald eagle tested positive for HPAI. It’s the second eagle to test positive since February this year, when one was found in Vancouver.

The province said Friday another seven wild birds that died between April 20 and 27 have also tested positive for H5 strains of avian influenza. That includes “three snow geese and one Canada goose in the Vanderhoof area, and individual bald eagles from Lac la Hache (near 100 Mile House), Bowen Island and Vancouver,” noted a provincial bulletin.