chicken farm

Stock image.

A flock of commercialized birds at Neyaashiinigmiing, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation has tested positive for avian influenza. Under the leadership of the Chief and Council, the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU) is supporting the Community Health Centre in conducting a comprehensive investigation.

In a media release from GBHU, the avian flu is also known as H5N1 and is a contagious viral infection that can affect several species of birds often used for livestock as well as companion birds and wild birds.

Tests of the flock were conducted late last week and the results are reportable under Canada's Health of Animals Regulations, said the media release, adding that to date, there are no reports of human illness related to this flock.

Last month, the H5N1 virus was detected in Ontario in wild as well as commercialized birds. This same strain has also been found in many jurisdictions across the world, including in Canada and the United States. Its spread has been primarily attributed to the migration of infected aquatic birds.

Along with the Grey Bruce Health Unit, the agencies working with Neyaashiinigmiing are Ontario Ministry of Health, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Contact tracing is being conducted through the Neyaashiinigmiing Community Health Centre and is focused on anyone who was exposed to the infected birds in the 21 days prior to the birds’ illness.

Contacts are being advised to monitor for signs and symptoms for seven days after their last exposure. Post-exposure prophylaxis is recommended for anyone who was exposed without using appropriate personal protective equipment.

Biosecurity protocols are in place around the premises where the infected flock is located and GBHU says that the risk to the public of catching H5N1 from commercialized birds or the products that come as a result is very low. Transmission from birds to humans usually only occurs through close contact with infected birds or heavily contaminated environments.

Yesterday CTV reported that the H5N1 strain is killing millions of commercialized birds and backyard flocks across North America and that so far outbreaks have been identified in at least 20 operations in Canada including in the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said outbreaks have been reported in 24 states so far, killing nearly 23 million birds.

In southwestern Ontario the CFIA has established two avian control zones in an attempt to control the spread.