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Outbreak of avian flu confirmed at Spallumcheen's O'Keefe Ranch

This outbreak is the 11th in B.C. this year.
Spallumcheen's O'Keefe Ranch confirmed it is dealing with an avian flu outbreak.

Spallumcheen’s O’Keefe Ranch has been hit by the avian flu.

In a news release, the ranch said the outbreak was confirmed on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Sharrilee Franks, O’Keefe Ranch manager, said it's been a "very trying time for everyone involved."

“There have been many tears shed,” Franks said.

The outbreak is listed on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website, where the agency notes the case is ‘non-poultry’, meaning the affected birds are kept in a single household, or for reasons other than commercial production.

In a statement, O’Keefe Ranch said its birds remained winterized for an extended period of time this year in order to reduce exposure to the avian flu, which was reported in B.C. for the first time in years on April 13.

The ranch said the birds remained quarantined to their pens, and as the summer progressed, they were let out on a rotation basis.

“The first death was the popular New Orleans,” the ranch said, referring to its tom turkey.

“He was approximately eight years of age, and there was hope the death was related to age and not the flu. The sudden death of a few birds shortly afterwards raised some red flags, and authorities were called.”

It is unknown at this time how many birds were infected by the disease.

The ranch said it has worked with authorities through the process of culling, and a decontamination process continues.

Part of the ranch will remain in quarantine until decontamination is complete, which is expected to take several weeks.

In the meantime, Franks said the ranch will remain open for the public “with very clear boundaries in place.”

“We feel confident the remainder of the grounds are safe and we are happy to report the other animals have not been affected,” Franks said.

This outbreak is the 11th in B.C. this year, and follows other outbreaks in the region. The first outbreak in the province happened in the rural Enderby area.

Outbreaks were detected in Kelowna and Summerland in May and June.

Avian flu is not considered to be a significant public health concern for healthy people who aren’t in regular contact with infected birds.

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