Avian Influenza has been identified in the KFL&A region

Photo by Kieran Wood.

Avian Influenza A (H5N1) has been identified in the Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) region, according to a release from KFL&A Public Health.

Avian Influenza is a viral disease that affects mostly domestic poultry and wild birds such as geese, ducks, and shorebirds, the public health agency said. Wild birds, especially waterfowl, are a natural reservoir for mild strains of avian influenza. The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain H5N1 is known to kill both wild birds and commercial poultry.

According to the release, the Province of Ontario is working with local, other provincial, federal, and international authorities to monitor and respond to situations as they arise.

“This virus does not typically pass from birds to humans, and the current strain of the virus has been listed as lower than normal concern for spread to people,” Public Health said. “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.”

Public Health went on to say that it is very important that people avoid handling live or dead wild birds. If contact with wild birds is unavoidable, Public Health suggests wearing gloves or using a doubled plastic bag and avoiding contact with blood, body fluids and feces. You should then wash your hands with soap and warm water. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has information on safety principles for small flock owners.

If you have handled a sick wildlife bird or poultry, Public Health urges you to be mindful of symptoms of Avian Influenza that can range from very mild to severe:

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

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and have been in contact with poultry or wild birds in the last 10 days, please contact your health care provider.

Call Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at 1- 800-567-2033 to report the finding of sick or dead wild birds. 

For more information about avian flu or handling wild or domestic birds, visit the KFL&A Public Health website.

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