The hunt is on! The CWHC BC tries to find the source of the H5N2 avian influenza virus

BW teal drake in eclipse plumage -  HG (1 of 1)

Photo courtesy of Hamilton Greenwood

British Columbia is continuing the investigation and management of an outbreak of highly-pathogenic avian influenza (AI) in the Fraser Valley, which began in December 2014. Thus far, this outbreak has involved 11 commercial poultry production farms and one backyard farm, and has resulted in the deaths of approximately 240,000 chickens and turkeys. A recent finding of one hobby farm affected with H5N1 added a new twist to the outbreak. Unlike in the United States, which is suffering high-path AI outbreaks, no wild birds have yet to test positive for the outbreak strain or other highly pathogenic trains of the virus.

It is suspected that wild waterfowl were source of the outbreak virus, and the CWHC BC has been called in to find out if this the case. The CWHC BC team includes the BC Animal Health Centre (Ministry of Agriculture), the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations and the Canadian Wildlife Service. This group ramped up its ongoing wild bird surveillance to focus on finding evidence of the outbreak virus in dead and hunted birds around the outbreak area. Working with the BC Centre for Disease Control, the CWHC-BC team is exploring new molecular methods to survey wetland sediments where the virus could be accumulating (AI viruses are shed in waterfowl feces) and to work with the Fraser Valley Birding community to identify areas of waterfowl aggregation.

These studies have been made possible through collaborations across agencies, all focused on better understanding, tracing and managing the origins of this unusual outbreak. Ultimately, the CWHC BC team hopes the data collected will help us to understand the current outbreak, and to predict and prevent outbreaks in the future. Stay tuned!


Submitted by Chelsea Himsworth, CWHC BC

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