Public health officials in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties are advising people against handling wild birds following the discovery of avian influenza in some chickens in Prince Edward County.
Avian influenza A, or H5N1, is also known as bird flu. It’s a viral disease posing little risk to humans but which has killed millions of birds, including farmed chickens, around the world.
Prince Edward County officials announced Friday the discovery of the virus in a backyard flock there. No details were released.
A news release issued Monday by Hastings Prince Edward Public Health stated the viral disease “affects mostly domestic poultry and wild birds such as geese, ducks, and shore birds,” with wild birds “especially likely to carry and transmit the virus.” Many species of birds are now making their spring migration into Ontario.
“While avian influenza can kill both wild and commercial birds, the risk to humans is very low,” the released stated. “Most cases of human Avian influenza have been traced to handling infected poultry (live or dead) or their droppings. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that properly cooked poultry is a source of concern of avian influenza infection for people.”
Those who must have contact with wild birds should wear gloves or use a doubled plastic bag to do so. Avoid contact with blood, bodily fluids and feces.
Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
Ontario’s agriculture ministry has safety information for owners of small flocks on its website at tinyurl.com/flockflu.
If you’ve handled a sick wild bird or poutry, watch for the human symptoms of avian flu. They range from very mild to severe and are similar to those of COVID-19.
Symptoms include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue, redness in the eyes, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and – though less commonly – diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or seizures.
Anyone with symptoms who has been in contact with poultry or wild birds in the last 10 days should contact a health care provider, the release advised.
People who’ve had bird contact and who have symptoms should distance themselves from others and wear a mask until assessed by a health care provider.
If you find sevearl sick or dead wild birds, call the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at 1- 800-567-2033. To dispose of a dead bird on your property, take precautions listed on the provincial website at tinyurl.com/deadwildlife.