A new case of bird flu has been detected at a farm in Center Wellington.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has established control zones to try and contain the spread of the H5N1 strain. They’ve been set up around infected areas, with a 10-kilometre radius, to limit the movement of domestic birds, eggs and poultry products.
Dr. Shayan Sharif, an immunologist with the Ontario Veterinary College, calls the H5N1 strain highly contagious.
“If the virus gets in, it’s not going to get out and making sure the virus doesn’t get into new premises,” she told CTV News. “These zones have proven quite effective.”
The case identified on Monday came from a duck flock in Center Wellington.
Another control zone was put in place in March after the bird flu was found on a turkey farm near Guelph.
“If it undergoes several rounds of mutations it could gain the capacity to transmit to humans, but not at this point,” said Dr. Sharif.
While the threat to humans doesn’t compare to the level of wiping out entire farms full of birds, backyard flocks are also at risk.
“[I] didn’t anticipate it to kind of hit us in a very secluded rural area that’s not near commercial flocks,” said Adrienne Brennan.
The birds in one of her coops, located in the North Bruce Peninsula, were culled this week.
The CFIA has set up control measures in the surrounding area.
They’ve also provided recommendations for enhanced biosecurity.
“We just took the initiative to contact all of our neighbors, anyone in the community who we know has backyard birds,” said Brennan. “Just to be aware, this might be an outbreak and we’ve contacted CFIA.”
As Ontario is one the largest turkey and chicken producers in Canada, the question remains whether the measures are enough to prevent widespread devastation.
“Time will tell, but from some of the indications it appears the virus has actually spread among wild birds, and that is disconcerting to me,” said Dr. Sharif.
PROTECTING BACKYARD FLOCKS
Diseases like the bird flu (or avian influenza) can cause serious illness or death in many species.
The government of Canada has put together recommendations on preventing and detecting disease in backyard flocks and pet birds.
Prevent contact with wild birds and other animals.
Many animals can carry viruses, parasites and bacteria. Your pet’s food and water should be kept away from wild animals to prevent them from becoming contaminated.
Keep their surroundings clean.
Viruses, parasites and bacteria can live in organic matter like litter and soil. They recommend cleaning out barns, gardening tools as well as water and feed containers, not sharing equipment with other bird owners, and washing your hands after handling birds.
Check for symptoms.
Signs could include:
- Lack of energy, movement or appetite
- Decreased egg production
- Swelling around the head, neck and eyes
- Coughing, gasping for air or sneezing
- Nervousness, tremors or lack of coordination
- sudden death
Call your veterinarian if you suspect your animal is sick with bird flu. Owners are also legally responsible to notify authorities.
Limit contact with other people
People can also spread bird diseases. They can be passed through hands, clothes, boots, and tire and wheel wells.
Keep new birds separate from your flock
They recommend isolating new birds for at least 30 days before introducing them to an existing flock.