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Take Caution Around Wild Birds and Animals as Avian Influenza Cases Increase

Spring migration poses risks to domestic and wild birds however, risk to humans remains low.

PORT HOPE, ON (April 14, 2023) – The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR District Health Unit) is urging the public to use caution around wild birds and poultry as cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), also known as “avian flu”, increase with spring migration happening across the province.

On April 4, 2023, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed that a domestic dog in Oshawa, Ontario tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. According to the release, the dog was found to have been infected with avian influenza after chewing on a wild goose, and died after developing clinical signs.

Avian influenza, a type “A” influenza virus, is a contagious viral infection that can affect all species of birds but can, sometimes also, infect mammals. While all bird species are susceptible to infection, the avian influenza virus has been primarily seen in migratory birds including ducks, geese, swans, gulls and shorebirds. A rising number of cases of the current avian influenza A (H5N1) strain have been reported in mammals that have come in contact with infected birds. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of humans being infected with H5N1 in Canada.

“Although there have been no reported cases of avian flu in our region to-date, it is important to understand the risks and ways to reduce transmission and protect the health of our pets, livestock and bird populations. The avian influenza virus has evolved differently around the world, and as thousands of birds return to our region from different areas, it creates more opportunities for this virus to change and adapt further.”

said Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health with the HKPR District Health Unit.

Reduce your Risk and Potential Exposure to Avian Flu

It is important to be aware, informed and observant of domestic and wild birds. The HKPR District Health Unit is recommending the public take caution and help reduce transmission by following these guidelines:

  • Avoid direct contact or handling of ill or dead wild birds or animals. If handling is necessary, wear gloves, place the dead animal in a doubled plastic bag and tie it closed then wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Contact your local municipality and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative online or by calling 1-800-567-2033 to report ill or dead birds/animals.
  • Keep children and family pets (including poultry) away from wild birds, fecal matter, and bird gatherings sites.
  • Keep pet birds and cats indoors, and dogs on leash to limit the potential for an encounter with an infected animal.
  • Consider removing or limiting household bird feeders, bird baths and duck ponds to reduce possible transmission. If removal is not possible, disinfect with a bleach and water solution (one part bleach and nine parts water) at least every two weeks, and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after cleaning.
  • Households that raise backyard chickens, own pet birds or maintain other flocks, should monitor them for signs of avian flu and follow preventive actions recommended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Hunters and trappers should also be careful when handling wild birds and some mammals, especially when field dressing, plucking and cleaning game. Following biosecurity measures and safe handling and cleaning guidelines such as wearing rubber gloves, using a well-ventilated area and washing your hands and surfaces, can drastically reduce your risk of exposure to avian influenza. Furthermore, it is crucial that individuals do not handle or eat any animals that appear to be sick or that have died from unknown causes.

“Avian flu is not a threat to food safety; however, you should always use proper cooking times, temperatures and handling techniques with all poultry, meat and eggs to eliminate pathogens includes bacteria and viruses. Be vigilant, be aware and reach out to a medical professional, if needed.”

said Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit.

If you become ill with influenza symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat) within 10 days after handling wild birds or other wildlife, see your health care provider and inform your healthcare provider that you have been in contact with wildlife.


For media inquiries contact:

Ashley Beaulac, Manager of Communication Services, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577 ext. 1212,
Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577 ext. 1423

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