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Avian Influenza

Avian influenza virus (AIV) is contagious and can affect domestic and wild birds. Many AIVs occur naturally in wild birds and circulate in migratory populations. The main current virus in circulation, H5N1, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), has caused an unprecedented global outbreak in its size and duration. First reported in Canada in December 2021, the virus has since been detected in wild birds in every province and territory.

Are there any confirmed cases of humans being infected with H5N1 in Canada?

There are no confirmed cases of humans being infected with the current Avian Influenza strain (H5N1) in Canada and to date, there has been no evidence of person-to-person transmission globally. The risk to the general public of contracting avian influenza is low.  Members of the public should always avoid direct contact with sick or infected birds and animals.

How can I protect myself and what precautions should I take?

While the risk of human infection with avian influenza viruses remains low, members of the public should avoid handling live or dead wild birds or potentially infected animals. If contact with wild birds or potentially infected animals is unavoidable, wear gloves or use a doubled plastic bag and avoid contact with blood, body fluids and feces. You should then wash your hands with soap and warm water.

While the annual human influenza vaccine does not protect against Avian Influenza, it will help prevent you from getting seasonal influenza, which could weaken your immune system or resistance to other infections. 

What are the human symptoms for Avian Influenza?

Based on the studies of patients with the HPAI H5N1 virus, signs can range from very mild to severe. The most common signs include,

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle and/or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Less commonly, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or seizures can occur. Diarrhea is more common with avian influenza than with influenza due to human viruses.

It is important to tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and if you have been around birds or animals in the past 10 days, and especially important if you have been around sick or dead birds or potentially infected animals and did not wear any personal protective equipment. Specific tests to detect avian influenza in people are available. Anti-viral therapy may be prescribed for you. If you do not have access to a doctor, please call Health811 at 811.

How can I protect my pet from avian influenza?

Pet owners are advised to:

  • not feed pets (e.g., dogs or cats) any raw meat from game birds or poultry.
  • not allow pets to consume or play with dead wild birds found outside.
  • contact their veterinarian if they have questions about their pet’s health.

Please contact the Porcupine Health Unit at 705-267-1181 or 1-800-461-1818 or by email at [email protected] should you have any questions.

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