There has been an increasing number of cases of avian influenza across Western Canada.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), as of September 14th, there are 19 infected premises in Alberta, 9 in BC, 8 in Saskatchewan, and 3 in Manitoba. Nearly 1.5 million birds have been impacted in those four provinces over the course of the outbreak.
Ontario currently has 8 infected premises.
Lisa Bishop-Spencer is director of brand and communications for Chicken Farmers of Canada.
"As we anticipated might happen, we've seen an increase in cases, this time starting from west to east, versus east to west as the birds begin their migrations south. We've seen some additional cases in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba," she said.
Bishop-Spencer is expecting to see more cases pop up in the coming weeks.
She talked about the impact on producers.
"It's a tremendous impact. It's something that we've had in the past but we've never had it in multiple provinces. So we're now dealing with a situation this year where we have a highly pathogenic virus. The virus is coming into the farm in it's highly pathogenic form, whereas it used to come in a low pathogenic form and then it will mutate to high pathogenic...This is the first time that we've dealt with this issue. It's highly pathogenic among wild birds themselves. Usually those migratory birds, the geese and the fowl, that migrate, usually carry that virus in its low pathogenic form but it's actually killing those birds as well. We're dealing with something entirely new. It's a new experience for everyone and it's very stressful for farmers."
Bishop-Spencer had this advice for consumers.
"The general public shouldn't be worried. This is not a food safety issue, this is an animal health issue and we have to bare in mind that the chicken that consumers are picking up at their grocery store or eating at their restaurants is perfectly safe."
She added this message for farmers.
"I think it's very important they work with their provincial boards, and with the CFIA and that we do everything we can to really try to control the situation as best we can."