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Sardis Park is confirmed site of 'active' outbreak of avian influenza in Chilliwack

Chilliwack Progress - 11/26/2022

Sardis Park in Chilliwack is the site of an active avian influenza outbreak.

Residents have been calling in reports of dead wild birds in the pond on an ongoing basis.

Carol-Anne Dutchak's home backs on to the park and she says she has seen a "couple of hundred" dead geese over the last two weeks.

"It's really quite nasty to see," Dutchak said. "The dead geese are all over. Crows are tearing them apart. It's not a pleasant site to see."

Animal control officials have been removing carcasses from the pond, which have included Canada geese and cackling geese.

"City staff and staff from Fraser Valley Regional District Animal Control have been responding to these reports, and would have been on-site this week to recover and dispose of the deceased birds," according to City of Chilliwack spokesperson Liana Wiebe.

City staff contacted the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food regarding the outbreak, as avian flu falls under the aegis of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, with provincial support.

Ministry officials confirmed with city staff that there is an active avian influenza virus outbreak in the park, and they have recommended that staff post a notice at the park, which includes safety tips for park users.

"Dead waterfowl are being found in the park and are being regularly removed by animal control officers," according to the Ag ministry notice from the Office of the Chief Veterinarian.

The risk of avian influenza spreading to people and companion animals (such as dogs and cats) is considered "low."

However, the virus can be transported on footwear and pets' paws to other locations and potentially infect domestic poultry, pet birds or wild birds in other locations.

"Avian influenza causes significant impact on poultry farms and to other birds such as pet birds and wild birds, and we all need to do our part to minimize transmission of the virus," the notice continued.

"Dead birds may also carry other diseases that can impact companion animals or people."

The provincial ministry is recommending these steps:

• Stay away from the park if you have contact with poultry or birds

• Keep pets on leash at all times when in the park and away from waterfowl habitat such as water and water's edge, and areas contaminated by bird dropping;

• Clean and dry footwear and your pet's paws and wet fur after visiting the park;

• Do not touch, pick up, or allow your pet contact with dead bird carcasses.

The 'wild bird mortality investigation program' hotline, 1-866-431-2473, accepts reports of dead wild birds from the public.

Dutchak says there is not enough signage warning people to stay away from the dead birds, and she worries that kids might be curious.

"Maybe they should notify the schools."

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