In spring 2004, an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), subtype H7N3, occurred in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada. The active outbreak lasted more than 90 days; 42 commercial poultry farms were identified as infected premises, and more than 17 million birds were culled. Through the depopulation of HPAI-positive farms and the strategic depopulation of adjacent test-negative farms, a total of 410 commercial poultry farms were emptied.
The goals for the commercial poultry industry were to expedite restocking, reduce nonproductive downtime, negotiate equitable financial compensation, review and restructure emergency disease response plans, and identify and implement mitigation strategies.
After the outbreak, multijurisdictional reviews identified the strengths and weaknesses of the outbreak control strategy. Lessons learned were incorporated into current emergency disease response protocols for both industry and government. The industry-led challenge to initial compensation values, especially for specialty poultry and breeder birds, resulted in a review of the federal Health of Animals Act. The British Columbia poultry industry, in collaboration with the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, developed an Enhanced Biosecurity Initiative that included the identification of mandatory on-farm biosecurity standards for commercial producers, an educational biosecurity self-assessment guide, and provisions for a producer self-quarantine to be enacted upon the first suspicion of disease.