Avian influenza had a big effect on poultry farms in 2022, but 2023 seems to be a bit quieter on that front.
That's confirmed by Wendy Wilkins, a disease surveillance veterinarian with the livestock branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, who says they've seen zero cases so far.
That's also true for poultry producers across the country.
"Right across the country, cases are down. Central Eastern Canada have seen a few cases earlier this spring, but those were nowhere near the volume of cases that we had in the outbreak in 2022. So we've had zero in Saskatchewan, I think there was one small flock in Alberta and there were a number of commercial premises earlier in the winter, like in January, which was more or less leftover from the 2022 outbreak in BC."
Wilkins lists off three reasons as to why she thinks the numbers have gone down.
"First of all, we have the epidemic curve. So typically when we have an outbreak of disease, it increases very quickly on the front end and then it reaches its peak and then it comes down, trails off on the back end, and ideally we'd like to see that trail off and just go right away completely."
"The other thing is as more and more wild birds get exposed to the virus. They build up some sort of immunity to it, so we aren't seeing the number of cases in the wild birds as well. So once the birds are immune, they're no longer catching it and spreading it themselves. So there are decreased wildlife incidents as well,"
"Then the third thing - we do have our poultry producers right across the board being more cautious about how they manage their birds and trying to keep avian influenza out of the barn. So everything combined has led to a best-case scenario where we haven't seen anything this year. "
While avian health is looking better, Wilkins advises the public that they should still be careful when it comes to avian influenza.
"People should still think about avian influenza. Think about keeping it out of their poultry and keeping an eye out for cases in the wild as well. You know, if we can't find anything influenza in wild birds, if we aren't looking for it if we don't have birds to test, we can't find it."
"We are pretty certain that it is present in our resident populations. We have some percentage of waterfowl that stays in Saskatchewan every year, they don't go north in the spring and it's probably circulating at very, very low levels. The risk is still there, so we do want people to be still aware and still taking precautions."