As more and more birds fall ill with avian flu, poultry farmers and wildlife facilities in Canada are on edge, officials have imposed region-specific restrictions on the transport of live birds and poultry products, and experts have advised Canadians to use bird feeders. have been advised to remove it so as to combat the spread. ,
Avian flu is a contagious virus that spreads mainly among birds, and can range from “low pathogenic” to “highly pathogenic”. The severe form attacks multiple internal organs within the infected bird, causing death in nine out of ten cases.
Canada has been battling an outbreak of avian flu since 2021. As of last week, more than 1.37 million birds have been affected across the country since 2021.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), they are “currently responding to cases of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in farm birds across Canada.”
In the past few weeks, the increase in reported cases among both farmed and wild birds has created a new cause for concern.
In late April, the OWL Orphan Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Metro Vancouver, BC, issued a statement on Facebook saying they were dealing with an outbreak of avian flu and that it had already affected or killed many of the wild birds they care for. We do.
“While some rehab centers have sadly had to move closer to new intakes, we at OWL are fortunate to have the necessary space and equipment to provide multiple complete quarantine facilities for patients and our quarantine to adapt to this virus. Procedures have been updated,” the facility wrote in an April 28 post. “Sadly, HPAI is fatal in raptors in 90-100 percent of cases and we have already lost nesting adult bald eagles and an adult Coopers hawk.”
General Manager Rob Hope told CTV News Vancouver on Wednesday that he has seen about four positive cases, and there are six that are considered probable cases. His first case came in March.
“We are getting them mostly from the local area, Delta, Vancouver. We had a positive from Bowen Island,” he said. “Unfortunately, the death rate is quite high, and it is within 24 hours.”
Birds that are sick with avian flu may show illness through strange behavior, seizures or even falling from trees, the feature added to their Facebook post.
They are now urging residents to remove bird feeders to prevent further spread of the disease.
“To prevent the spread of HPAI please consider temporarily removing bird feeders, keeping your chickens or pet birds undercover, and not in areas where wild waterfowl may congregate,” the post said.
It’s a sentiment that is being echoed by other experts. The BC SPCA issued a notice Thursday warning that wild birds play a “significant role” in spreading the virus, and that backyard bird feeders should be kept away and bird baths emptied.
“Bird eaters facilitate the spread of disease by encouraging unnatural gatherings of birds and attracting predators and other wildlife, including rodents,” the SPCA’s warning said.
“The presence of bird feeders and bathhouses may also increase the risk of transmitting the virus between nearby animals such as backyard chickens or turkeys.”
Environment and Climate Change Canada still states on its website that bird feeders are safe, but adds that they should be “removed from areas that are open to poultry and other domestic animals”. He also said that you should not hand-eat wild birds, as this may encourage them to congregate in one area, increasing the chances of transmission.
“Backyard bird feeders and baths should be cleaned regularly using a weak solution of household bleach (10 percent sodium hypochlorite),” he said. “Make sure they’re thoroughly washed and dried before reusing.”
The public is encouraged to help by reporting any sick or dead birds to the authorities, as well as birds that appear to be acting strange.
Recently, many zoos have closed their aviaries to protect their birds, with the Toronto Zoo and the Edmonton Valley Zoo removing the birds from exhibits in March and April respectively.
According to an online CFIA tool that shows the state of ongoing investigations into avian influenza reported by the province, HPAI has been detected in five poultry and non-poultry herds in BC since early April, including one in Kelowna and One in Richmond included as of recently Tuesday. ,
Since the beginning of April, HPAI has been detected in 21 poultry herds in Ontario, 25 poultry and non-poultry herds in Alberta, and seven poultry and non-poultry herds each in Quebec and Saskatchewan.
Presently, there are 72 herds across the country in which HPAI has been detected since December 2021.
The CFIA tool does not specify how many birds in each flock were detected as HPAI.
In March, the CFIA announced that they were banning the import and transportation of live birds, bird products and by-products from specific US states, which are also seeing a rise in avian flu.
Initially, the list included only seven states. But the list was updated as recently as Thursday and now includes 18 states to which the restrictions apply.
Canadians who eat poultry products need not be concerned about food safety risks, the agency stressed. While avian flu can be passed to humans in rare cases, you cannot contract avian flu by eating cooked poultry or eggs.
During the outbreak, several countries have banned the transport of poultry products or live birds from Canada, with a number of temporary restrictions implemented in February due to the HPAI outbreak in Nova Scotia.