A small poultry flock in the Comox Valley tested positive for bird flu, the first on Vancouver Island, and the seventh case found in a flock in the province.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the affected site has been placed under quarantine.
A previous outbreak in 2004 in the Fraser Valley killed about 17 million birds.
Here are five things to know about the latest spread:
Where was the virus discovered in British Columbia?
CFIA has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N1 at the following locations in British Columbia:
• April 13 – North Okanagan Territory (Poultry Flock)
• 25 April – Kelowna (small flock)
• 27 April – Kootenai Center (small flock)
• May 3 – Richmond (small flock)
• May 3 – Kelowna (small flock)
• May 4 – Central Okanagan (small flock)
• May 11 – Comox Valley Territory (small herd)
Wild birds have also tested positive for H5 strains of bird flu in or near 100 Mile House, Bowen Island, Chilliwack, Kelowna, Metro Vancouver, Vanderhoof and Williams Lake, according to the British Columbia government.
How severe is this outbreak and can we expect to see it appear in more flocks?
Experts say the H5N1 strain is highly contagious and spread across North America most likely by migratory wild birds. Outbreaks of the same strain have also been detected in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
BC has extended its order for all commercial poultry operators with more than 100 birds to move their flocks indoors through June 13.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is expecting more cases, and so far says an estimated 1.7 million birds have been killed or killed by the virus in Canada, mainly in Alberta and Ontario.
No infections have been detected in humans, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says there is no evidence to suggest that eating poultry or cooked eggs can transmit the virus to humans.
Should people feed wild birds?
The BC SPCA urges people with backyard bird feeders to take them down temporarily to reduce the risk of transmission of the highly contagious virus.
The virus is believed to be spread by infected wild birds that migrate north for the summer and are shed through faeces and respiratory secretions that may remain in the environment for several months.
Bird feeders and bird baths can increase the risk of bird flu spreading to backyard poultry, said Dr. Andrea Wallace, director of wildlife care at the SPCA.
The organization is asking people to temporarily remove their feeders, empty water baths and monitor their surroundings for signs of sick birds. Symptoms can include lethargy, nasal discharge, excessive tearing, swelling of the head and eyelids, and an unusually “puffy” appearance.
Can my other pets catch the virus?
This strain of bird flu is found in chicken, turkey, quail, guinea fowl, wild birds, and domestic animals, according to the CFIA. It has been detected in mammalian species including humans, rats, mice, weasels, ferrets, pigs, cats and dogs.
However, the number of documented cases of AI H5N1 in non-avian species is very low despite the fact that this virus has caused worldwide outbreaks of birds, over the past few years, according to CFIA.
The agency stresses that the chance of someone contracting bird flu from a pet is extremely low.
What should I do if I suspect that the bird is sick?
Bird owners have a legal responsibility to report serious bird diseases such as bird flu to the authorities. Do not take sick birds off the property.
Contact a veterinarian or nearest Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Animal Health Bureau To assist or report any unexplained disease or death of poultry.
Some or all of the following clinical signs of affected birds are:
• Decreased egg production, many of which are soft-shell or without shell
• Bleeding on the hock
• Suddenly high death rate
• Calm and severe depression
Swelling of the skin under the eyes
• Swelling and crowding of rattles and combs
If you discover a sick or dead wild bird, call the Wild Bird Mortality Investigation Program hotline at 1-866-431-2473.
—With files from The Canadian Press