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Avian flu outbreak confirmed in the North Okanagan, investigation continues

Click to play video: 'North Okanagan farmers worried after avian influenza identified' North Okanagan farmers worried after avian influenza identified
WATCH: Some North Okanagan farmers are on edge after avian influenza was identified on a farm in that region. Thousand birds have already been destroyed in other parts of Canada as officials try to control the spread of the illness. Reporter Megan Turcato spoke to a local farmer about what she's doing to try to protect her flock. – Apr 14, 2022

A confirmed outbreak of avian flu in the North Okanagan is an “extremely low risk” to public health but new health measures are being implemented, B.C.’s minister of agriculture and food said Thursday.

Lana Popham said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency detected the presence of avian influenza at a North Okanagan farm and is leading the investigation and response, with provincial support for testing, mapping, surveillance and disposal.

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“The ministry has also activated its emergency operations centre and will work with the CFIA, producers, industry and other stakeholders to effectively respond to this outbreak and any others that may occur in B.C.

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“All poultry producers, including backyard poultry owners, are advised to increase their biosecurity practices and to be vigilant and monitor for signs of avian influenza in their flocks,” Popham said in the statement.

“To further protect farmers and prevent the spread of avian influenza in B.C., the deputy chief veterinarian has issued an order requiring all commercial poultry flocks in the province with more than 100 birds to be moved indoors until the spring migration ends in May.”

If avian influenza is suspected, poultry producers should immediately contact their local veterinarian or the provincial Animal Health Centre for advice and information.

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“The public health risk is extremely low and there is no risk to food safety.

“I know this is an incredibly stressful time for our poultry and egg producers. They have endured so much over the past two years. They have shown they are truly resilient. We are here to help, and we will work together to get through this.”

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says the food industry is making adjustments to maintain supplies of poultry and eggs in the face of a large outbreak of avian flu in Canada and around the world.

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says this has been an unprecedented year globally for avian flu, or bird flu as it’s also known.

Outbreaks of the highly pathogenic strain H5N1 have been detected not only in B.C., but also in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta since late 2021.

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As of April 11, about 260,000 birds have been euthanized or killed by the virus in Canada. Approximately 166,000 of those were in Alberta and 84,000 were in Ontario.

While most forms of avian flu are mild, H5N1 can cause serious disease and death in birds.

To contact the B.C. Animal Health Centre, call 1 800 661-9903 or email PAHB@gov.bc.ca

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— with files from The Canadian Press

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