Photo by Tomáš Malík on Unsplash.

Hub Staff

The Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU) is working with federal and provincial partners to investigate after birds located at the Harrison Park bird sanctuary in Owen Sound tested positive for avian influenza (H5N1).

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) received laboratory confirmation of the virus in the flock on Monday. At this time, no human cases have been reported locally.

GBHU Physician Consultant, Dr Rim Zayed, said the risk to human health is considered low and added that human infections are rare and typically occur in people who have come in close, unprotected contact with infected birds or contaminated bedding, feed or water. Zayed said that avian influenza doesn’t spread easily from person to person.

Parks staff who may have come in contact with the infection are being advised to monitor for flu-like symptoms for a period of 10 days after their last contact. If symptoms develop they may be directed for testing or treatment.

Biosecurity protocols has been increased around the affected area.

Avian influenza is a contagious viral infection that can affect several species of commodified birds as well as wild birds and companion birds. It is a reportable disease under Canada’s Health of Animals Regulations.

Wild birds, in particular waterfowl, are natural reservoirs of influenza viruses. They are not normally affected by the disease but can transmit it to domesticated and commodified species.

The World Health Organization reported that since 2003 there have been a total of 864 cases of H5N1 appearing in humans worldwide which resulted in 456 deaths. The CFIA reports that to date in Canada 134 premises have been affected by H5N1, impacting more than 2.36 millions birds. At 1.07 million, the majority of those are in Alberta while Ontario has the next highest at 561,000.

In the US over 44 million infections have been confirmed to date with 10s of millions more impacted worldwide.

Sources: Grey Bruce Health Unit, World Health Organization, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Government of Canada.