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Avian Influenza

Avian Influenza (“Avian flu”) – What You Need to Know

The Avian Influenza (“bird flu” or “H5N1”) virus infects domestic poultry and wild birds such as geese, ducks, and shore birds. “Bird flu” season follows the migratory pattern of wild birds. In past years we have had several reports of Avian Influenza in wild and commercial poultry settings across Ontario, including one goose in our area. The Province of Ontario works with local, other provincial, federal, and international authorities to monitor and respond to situations as they arise.

At this point in time the virus does not easily cross from birds to humans, and the current strain of the virus has been listed as low risk for spread to people. The exact mode of transmission from birds to people is not known. Most human cases of avian influenza have been traced to direct contact with live or dead infected poultry or their droppings. High risk activities include caring for diseased birds, dressing birds that died from the disease, consuming duck’s blood or possibly undercooked poultry, and handling birds involved in cockfighting. There is no evidence to suggest that properly cooked game birds are a source of avian influenza infection for people.

Please call Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at 1-800-567-2033 to report the finding of sick or dead wild birds or use their new online reporting tool found here.

It is very important that people avoid handling live or dead wild birds. If contact with wild birds is unavoidable, wear gloves or use a doubled plastic bag and avoid contact with blood, body fluids and feces. You should then thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water.

If you have handled a sick wild bird or sick domestic poultry then you should watch for symptoms of Avian Influenza. It is important to tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and if you have been in close contact with poultry or wild birds in the past 10 days;

  • Fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle and/or body aches, headache, tiredness
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or seizures

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