Avian influenza

Last updated on June 5, 2024

Avian influenza (AI) is a viral infection that affects food-producing birds, pet birds and wild birds. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) leads AI response in Canada. In 2022 and 2023, the H5N1 strain of AI was confirmed in BC as part of a global outbreak. Information about detections in Canada can be found on CFIA’s website.

On this page:

In March and April 2024, H5N1 AI virus was detected in the Unites States in ruminants (cattle and goats). More information about AI in ruminants can be found here:

What is AI?

There are two classifications of AI viruses based on the severity of the illness caused in birds:

  • Low pathogenic AI (LPAI). Typically causes little or no signs of illness in infected birds.
  • Highly pathogenic AI (HPAI). Causes severe illness and death in birds. The recent outbreak has been caused by the H5N1 strain of HPAI.

HPAI, including H5N1 and certain LPAI viruses are considered to be notifiable AI, which is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act. All cases must be reported to the CFIA and BC Chief Veterinarian.

Reinforcing flock biosecurity

AI can be transmitted from bird to bird through secretions and feces, and indirectly through human movement, contaminated feed, water, and equipment. Preparedness measures help bird owners take preventative steps to protect their flock and prepare in the event of an AI outbreak.

Familiarize yourself with flock health best practices

Resources are available to help you prevent and detect disease.

Small flock communications study

All small flock owners are encouraged to take part in the Small Flock Communications Study being lead by Dr. Cassandra Andrew, Veterinarian, UBC Graduate Student. The study is being conducted by the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the BC and Yukon Governments.

Dr. Andrew is partnering with us to learn more about small flock owners and how they can be supported to prevent AI in their flocks. Participation is voluntary. Through the survey, you can also sign up to participate in a 30-60 minute phone or Zoom interview.

Guidance on maintaining backyard bird feeders

Environment Canada offers guidance on feeding wild birds in your backyard. Keep domestic birds safe by following their use and care tips for bird feeders and baths. Be aware that wild birds are the main source of AI.

Premises Identification

Premises Identification (ID) information is used to plan for and manage emergencies affecting livestock. The Premises ID program improves the ministry's ability to:

  • Contain pest and animal disease outbreaks
  • Notify animal owners
  • Respond to natural disasters like floods or fires

B.C. poultry and livestock owners and commingling site operators must register. There is no cost to take part in the program. Learn more about Premises ID or register your premises.

Recognizing the signs of AI in poultry

The most important sign of AI is a sudden, unexplained increase in flock mortality. Some or all of the following clinical signs are also evident in infected birds:

  • A drop in production of eggs, many of which are soft-shelled or shell-less
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhages on the hock
  • High and sudden mortality rate
  • Quietness and extreme depression
  • Swelling of the skin under the eyes
  • Wattles and combs become swollen and congested

Reporting sick or dead birds

If you suspect birds you own have AI:

If you spot a sick or dead wild bird:

Bird owners are legally responsible to notify authorities of serious bird diseases such as bird flu. Do not take sick birds off the property.

For all other inquiries, contact AgriServiceBC at 1-888-221-7141.

HPAI in ruminants (cattle, goats) 

Reporting sick ruminants 

If you suspect ruminants (e.g. cattle, goats) you own have signs of AI:

  • Call your veterinarian
  • Contact your nearest Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Animal Health office
  • Call the BC Animal Health Centre at 1-800-661-9903 

Testing cattle

Testing of milk samples from clinically healthy cattle to confirm a negative HPAI status is now available at the BC Animal Health Center. This testing provides another tool that producers can use to reduce risk of introducing HPAI into their herds. For more information speak to your veterinarian or contact the Animal Health Center.

More Information

General orders

There are no general orders currently in effect.


Commercial chicken and turkey to remain indoors: General order removed

Effective June 5, 2024, 2023, the Chief Veterinarian has removed General Order AIV 2023-03 (PDF, 246 KB)which required persons responsible for chickens and turkeys in operations regulated by one of the provincial boards or commissions listed below to keep their poultry indoors.

All persons responsible for chickens and turkeys in operations regulated by one of the following:

  1. BC Broiler Hatching Egg Commission
  2. BC Chicken Marketing Board
  3. BC Egg Marketing Board
  4. BC Turkey Marketing Board (each a “Board or Commission”)

and who hold quota from their relevant Marketing Board or Commission were subject to this order.

Diligence in applying biosecurity measures remains the most important tool in preventing poultry flocks from contracting avian influenza. It is essential that producers continue to maintain on-farm biosecurity at all times, even after the lifting of the order.


Commingling General Order removed 

Effective February 13th, 2024, the Chief Veterinarian has removed General Order AIV 2023-03 (PDF, 246 KB) which prohibited commingling of poultry in the lower mainland. 

It is recommended that anyone attending a poultry commingling event continue to follow the guidelines listed below.

For 14 days preceding the commingling event:

  • Maintain a closed flock;
  • All persons who enter and exit the flock area use clean, dedicated boots, gloves and over-clothing in the flock housing area;
  • Minimize equipment movement into the closed flock housing area and ensure any required equipment is clean and dry before it is moved into the closed flock housing area;
  • Exclude wild birds from the flock area; and,
  • Monitor the flock diligently for signs of illness and ensure birds from flocks with signs of illness are not brought to commingling events

At the commingling event:

  • Minimize handling of birds;
  • Maintain a distance of 2 metres between birds from different premises, and between birds and the public; and,
  • Use boot wash and hand sanitizer before entering and before exiting

After the commingling event:

  • Segregate and monitor new or returning birds for a minimum of 2 weeks


Infected premises and movement restrictions

An infected premises (IP) occurs when an HPAI detection in poultry is confirmed through laboratory testing. CFIA places an IP under quarantine. Learn about what to expect if your birds are infected.

CFIA may also create a Primary Control Zone (PCZ) around an IP. PCZs restrict the movement of poultry and poultry related products and equipment within a 10 km radius of an IP.

Are you in a Primary Control Zone?

You can see the location of active primary control zones (PCZs) on the CFIA web site using the interactive AI Zone Map.

Permits and movement control permissions

If your flock is in an active PCZ, you will need a permit to move your birds, their products, and by-products. Permits are required for both small and commercial flocks. Use CFIA’s interactive tool to find information on permits and conditions.

Direct questions about permits and movement restrictions to the category that applies to you:


Small flock owners

  • The ministry at 1-888-221-7141
  • Support is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (PDT)

Commercial producers

  • Your marketing board organization


Disposal of AI Infected Wastes

Disposal of AI Infected Wastes from poultry operations is subject to the Environmental Management Act. For more information on regulatory requirements, refer to AI Infected Waste.

When will a PCZ be revoked?

The PCZ revocation process begins when the last IP in a PCZ has completed primary decontamination. The number of days required to complete the revocation process may vary. Learn about the path to revoking a primary control zone.

Health and wellness

Animals bring many benefits to people’s lives; however, they can also be a source of diseases in people.

Is AI a risk for people?

AI viruses can, on rare occasions, cause disease in humans. Transmission has occurred in people with close contact with infected birds or heavily contaminated environments. HealthLinkBC provides more information about identifying and preventing AI in people.

Maintaining a safe and healthy workplace

People working or in contact with AI infected or suspect birds can take actions to prevent the spread of AI:

  • Wear protective clothing, including face masks, goggles, gloves and boots
  • Get an annual vaccination against seasonal human influenza. This reduces the chance that you become infected with both human and bird flu strains at the same time. Find a flu vaccine clinic near you.

Follow biosecurity procedures for your activities:

Staying healthy in stressful times

Loss of animals to AI can have a profound effect on our lives and our wellbeing. Help and resources for people who need to talk or feel overwhelmed are available.

Contact information

Contact the Animal Health Centre (AHC) for help with:

Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (PDT).

Toll Free
1767 Angus Campbell Road
Abbotsford, B.C. V3G 2M3