today is May 24, 2022

The fears of many chicken farmers on Vancouver Island have been realized. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed that a case of the avian flu that's been spreading across Canada has been found in a small flock in the Comox Valley on Wednesday.

Jeremy Vigini considers his birds pets, but they do provide limited income on his Black Creek, B.C., hobby farm, Broken Head Farms.

He's only been at it for a few months but had heard the bird flu was headed towards the island.

"We first started hearing there was a problem last month," he said, noting that he'd been keeping an eye on biosecurity and preventative measures.

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Vigini and other poultry operations of all sizes are now under tighter restrictions after a positive case of the avian flu was confirmed on the Mid-Island.

"All we got was a post saying it's in the Comox Valley now, and so our minds went to, 'How do we secure our birds, our pets, all this stuff?'" he said.

Vigini's now put up a new gate and increased fencing and netting to try to keep wild birds out.

WILDLIFE WORKERS

Staff and volunteers at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Centre (MARS) in Merville are increasing their protocols.

"[It's] extremely contagious as far as we are aware, so at this point it can spread to any species of bird. Not necessarily all birds will show symptoms," said Gylaine Andersen, manager of wildlife rehabilitation at MARS.

Staff are now taking a second look at the condition of their current patients.

"It's kind of hard because a lot of these symptoms we're seeing in animals anyway, and now we have to think, 'OK maybe this is the flu instead of whatever else they would normally be,'" said Andersen.

The facility's asking the general public to help out by encouraging birds to socially distance.

"For gathering of birds at bird feeders and bird baths, we are asking that people take those down," said Andersen.

MARS is worried that if the avian flu is left unchecked, it could spread to wild birds, like eagles and geese.

As of Wednesday, seven properties across B.C. had confirmed cases of the avian flu.