Skip to content

‘We’ve been expecting this,’ poultry rep says about avian flu in Chilliwack

Egg farm in Chilliwack ‘first confirmation’ of highly pathogenic bird flu outbreak in B.C. this fall
A Chilliwack poultry farm with 8,000 laying chickens was confirmed to be infected with avian influenza on Oct. 21, 2023, with the flock euthanized on Oct. 22, 2023. (BC Egg)

An outbreak of avian flu has been reported on a Chilliwack poultry farm.

It’s the first confirmation of the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza in B.C. this fall, according to a Oct. 21 order of a primary control zone declared by Canadian Federal Inspection Agency (CFIA).

“The H5 strain of avian influenza was detected on a small commercial poultry operation in Chilliwack,” according to the statement from CFIA.

The birds were depopulated, and a “primary control zone” was established.

“Once declared, it means the birds, products and by-products, as well as anything exposed to birds cannot be moved into, out of, within, or through the control zone except by permission from the CFIA.”

There is a very low risk for the public.

“There is no evidence to suggest that eating thoroughly cooked poultry, game meat or eggs transmits avian influenza to humans,” the CFIA stated. “The virus is most often spread by direct contact with live or dead infected birds or surfaces and objects contaminated by their feces.”

The public should minimize risks of transmission by ensuring they don’t handle or feed any wild birds.

The outbreak was on a commercial egg farm in Chilliwack, where 8,000 layers were producing free-range eggs, said Amanda Brittain, information officer with the B.C. Poultry Association.

“We’ve been expecting this,” Brittain said. “We know that avian influenza moves with the fall migration of wild birds.”

Humane euthanization of the infected chickens took place in Chilliwack on Oct. 22.

Poultry producers shifted into to “red-level biosecurity regulations,” in response.

“That means all farmers are taking extra precautions to keep their flocks safe,” Brittain said.

Precautions include changing footwear and clothes before entering barns, consistent sanitization of equipment, and keeping birds indoors.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Pam Alexis said at the B.C. legislature that the federal CFIA had the lead on the file, but she did confirm there was only one case so far confirmed in Chilliwack.

“I can tell you there is no risk at all to the health of British Columbians; no shortages of food, or any of that. We’re just dealing with the one case right now.”

The province spent $5 million this past spring on education trying to get industry prepared for further outbreaks.

Asked if the minister had advice for farmers, she advised they: “follow those biosecurity standards to a tee, to ensure the safety of your flocks.”

RELATED: Info session held in 2022 for small-flock farmers

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
Read more