Avian influenza in wild birds

On March 28, 2022, the CFIA confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI), subtype H5N1, in a poultry flock in the Township of Zorra, Ontario. Detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) in Canada 2021-2022

Highly pathogenic avian influenza

Avian influenza virus (AIV) is a contagious viral infection that can affect domestic and wild birds throughout the world. Many strains occur naturally in wild birds and circulate in migratory populations. AIV is designated highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) when it has characteristics that cause mass disease and mortality in infected poultry.

There have been no human cases of avian influenza resulting from exposure to wild birds in North America.

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Signs of a sick bird

Do not touch a dead, injured or sick bird.

Signs of avian flu include:

  • nervousness, tremors or lack of coordination
  • swelling around the head, neck and eyes
  • lack of energy or movement
  • coughing, gasping for air or sneezing
  • diarrhea or
  • sudden death

Reporting sick or dead birds

Report sick or dead birds to:

  • Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative information line 1-800-567-2033 or by using their online reporting tool.
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador, to the Wildlife Emergency Number at (709) 685-7273.
  • In Prince Edward Island, to the Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division at (902) 368-4683.
  • In Nova Scotia, to the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables at 1-800-565-2224.
  • In New Brunswick, to the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development at 1-833-301-0334.
  • In Québec, to the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs at 1-877-346-6763.
  • In Ontario, to the Ontario regional centre of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at (866) 673-4781.
  • In Manitoba, to the Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development 24 hours at 1-800-782-0076.
  • In Saskatchewan, to the Ministry of Environment Inquiry Centre at 1-800-567-4224.
  • In Alberta, to the Alberta Environment and Parks Office at 310-0000.
  • In British Columbia, to the provincial Wild Bird Reporting Line at 1-866-431-2474.
  • In the Northwest Territories, to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources using the regional wildlife emergency number.
  • In Nunavut, to your local Conservation Officer at the Department of Environment.
  • In the Yukon, to the Turn in Poachers and Polluters at 1-800-661-0525 or by using their online reporting tool.

Feeding wild birds in your backyard

To minimize the risk of transmission of HPAI, do not handle or feed any wild bird by hand. Feeding encourages wild birds to congregate around food sources and can increase the probability of transmission among wild birds, both within and among species.

The use of bird feeders is still safe but they should be removed from areas that are open to poultry and other domestic animals. If you care for poultry, prevent contact between wild birds and poultry by removing exterior/outdoor sources of food, water and shelter that attract wild birds.

Backyard bird feeders and baths should be cleaned regularly using a weak solution of domestic bleach (10% sodium hypochlorite). Ensure they are well rinsed and dried before re-use.

Protecting domestic and captive birds

Domestic birds are at risk of contracting viruses like avian influenza, in particular if they have access to the outdoors and ponds or bodies of water used by wild birds. Owners are urged to take an active role in protecting their flocks by employing strict biosecurity measures on their property including minimizing contact between wild birds and their backyard flocks.

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How to prevent and detect disease in backyard flocks and pet birds

Information for migratory bird permit holders

Wildlife rehabilitation centres, aviculture permit holders and zoos should take biosecurity precautionary measures to limit interactions with wild birds by removing exterior/outdoor sources of food, water and shelter that attract wild birds.

HPAI in wild birds is confirmed in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and more recently the United States and Canada. As a result, avicultural permit holders in Canada need to be aware of the risks of HPAI to their flock as well as how to mitigate that risk. Avicultural permit holders must consider potential risks to human health and the risk of potential amplification and spread of HPAI to other wild or domestic animal populations.

The following steps are vital to keeping your flock safe:

  • Prevent contact with wild birds and other animals. Exclude wild birds from enclosures and roosting near or above your aviary.
  • Have dedicated footwear and outer clothing for working with your birds. Wash your hands thoroughly after working around birds.
  • Regularly clean barns, cages, tools etc.
  • Monitor the health of your flock
  • Limit exposure to visitors
  • Keep new birds separate when entering your flock, including birds returning from shows or exhibitions.

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Avian influenza in wild birds: prevent the spread poster

Decontamination protocols following contact with wild birds or wild bird droppings

Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before and after completing these steps outside or in a well-ventilated room using protective eyewear and gloves:

  • Remove all organic material from footwear and other contaminated articles of clothing or equipment
  • Scrub again, using a solution of 50 millilitres of household bleach (sodium hypochlorite, 5%-6%) and 4 litres of water. Let stand until the surface is dry
  • Scrub with hot water and common household disinfectant following the label directions.

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How to prevent and detect disease in backyard flocks and pet birds

Information for hunters

Follow these guidelines in the way you handle game meat:

  • Cook game meat thoroughly, to an internal temperature of approximately 74°C (165° F).
  • Follow safe food handling practices such as hand washing and keeping game products separate from other food products to avoid cross contamination.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling raw game products.
  • Thoroughly clean contaminated surfaces on tools, work areas, and clothing.

Check the federal migratory game bird hunting regulations for updates to migratory bird harvests restrictions.

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Hunter safety

Food safety

Previous alerts

  • On March 27, 2022, the CFIA confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI), subtype H5N1, in a poultry flock in the Township of Guelph/Eramosa, Ontario.
  • On March 15, 2022, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI), subtype H5N1, in a non-commercial flock in southern Nova Scotia. This backyard flock does not produce birds or eggs for sale.
  • On February 11, 2022, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI), subtype H5N1, at a mixed farm in western Nova Scotia, which includes poultry and products for local sale.
  • On February 3, 2022 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed the presence of high pathogenic avian influenza (AI), subtype H5N1, in a commercial flock in western Nova Scotia.
  • On January 9, 2022, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI), subtype H5N1, at an additional farm in the Avalon Peninsula on the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador. This small flock farm does not produce birds for sale.
  • In late December 2021, HPAI subtype H5N1, was confirmed at a multi-species exhibition farm in the Avalon Peninsula on the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • December 2021 – Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in wild birds on the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • In 2014, one case of HPAI in wild birds was documented in Canada, when one wild duck tested positive for HPAI, subtype H5N8 following a domestic poultry outbreak in British Colombia.
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