Avian influenza’s toll on Canadian poultry farms exceeds 1.8 million birds

The number of domestic poultry that have died due to highly pathogenic avian influenza in Canada is approaching the two million mark.

As of May 12, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says an estimated 1.82 million birds on farms have either died from the deadly H5N1 virus or been euthanized as part of an infected flock, up from 1.74 million the prior week.

Provincially, Alberta’s poultry sector has been the hardest hit, with approximately 937 thousand birds affected at 24 sites. Ontario has had confirmed cases at 25 farms, affecting around 470,000 birds.

Saskatchewan and B.C. have both had eight confirmed cases on farms or in small flocks, while Quebec has had seven. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have each seen two, while Manitoba and New Brunswick have only had one confirmed case in poultry.

The CFIA differentiates between commercial and small flocks in its reporting, but does not provide details on the type of poultry — whether cases involve egg laying hens, broilers, hatching egg layers/breeders, or turkeys, for example.

In addition to the mortalities, movement of eggs, day-old chicks, and older birds has been affected in some cases, particularly when hatcheries or processing plants are located in restricted control zones near confirmed cases.

Provincial animal health authorities have also restricted movement of birds for shows, auctions, and agricultural fairs. On Friday, Saskatchewan’s Chief Veterinary Officer extended the province’s animal health control order prohibiting movement to and participation to these types of events until June 14. The order, originally implemented on April 14, 2022, had been due to expire on May 14, 2022.

South of the border, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports 37.7 million birds have been affected by avian influenza in 2022 (as of May 13).