Hamilton Public Health has confirmed a bird flu case linked to the recovery of a dead turkey vulture in Dundas, Ontario, according to the city’s Health Risk and Vector Disease Program.
Supervisor Jane Morrell says the discovery was made by a resident who gave the carcass to animal services, who then passed it on to the Canadian Wildlife Health Association.
“It’s usually a one-time thing in an urban area that a resident needs to contact us, but in this case, that’s exactly what happened,” Muriel told Global News.
The city doesn’t have its own surveillance program for bird flu cases, Morell says, relying strictly on detection from residents, poultry farmers or types of bird farmers.
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She says in her nine years in public health, this was the first case of bird flu she had.
“It’s not something that happens every year, but there are outbreaks that are happening right now in Ontario and the states,” Morrell said.
“That is why we are seeing the emergence of multiple health units with positive cases emerging.”
Avian influenza has a high mortality rate, and those birds in outbreak sites that do not die from the disease are humanely killed to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says poultry and egg producers have lost more than 1.7 million birds to bird flu since late 2021. The toll includes birds that have died from the virus and birds that have been euthanized.
Ontario is the second worst affected province with 23 farms affected and 425,000 birds dead.
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Alberta was hardest hit, with 900,000 birds killed and 23 farms damaged.
But the virus outbreak has now appeared in every county except Prince Edward Island. Across the country, farmers are being encouraged to keep birds indoors, visitors are restricted, and biosecurity measures are ramping up to help stop the spread of the disease.
The virus can spread between birds through direct contact, but it also spreads easily from wild bird droppings and can be transmitted to commercial flocks on workers’ feet or on equipment.
The disease in humans is rare, but known conditions include fever, cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose.
Muscle or body aches, headache, general fatigue, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and shortness of breath are likely to occur in human infections.
Avian influenza is not a foodborne disease and humans cannot contract the virus by eating poultry or eggs.
For the average Hamiltonian, Morell says that means not touching or handling any birds it might come into contact with.
Also, individuals should clean hands properly after coming into contact with a bird feeder.
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The disease does not alter the behavior of the animals, Morell says, and residents should not fear attacks by rabid animals from infected birds.
“No, as in this case, it would end up dying in a place where you wouldn’t expect to find a dead eagle,” Morrell said.
Community members who encounter sick or dead wild birds can contact the Canadian Cooperative Center for Wildlife Health at 1-800-567-2033 to report and receive guidance.
Precautions for the disposal of dead birds are described at www.ontario.ca/page/dead-animals-or-fish-found-your-property.
– Files from the Canadian Press
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