Environment | April 4, 2023
This week, avian influenza – H5N1 (also known as avian flu) has been confirmed in Mississauga after suspected cases were investigated and test results have come back positive. Mississauga Animal Services and Peel Public Health are monitoring the situation and will provide more information as it becomes available.
“The avian flu is a contagious viral disease, which is fatal to wild birds and mammals. It can quickly devastate bird and wildlife populations, which can profoundly impact our environment and food chain,” said Jay Smith, Manager at Mississauga Animal Services. “We’ve received multiple calls from residents reporting sick, dying or dead birds and are working closely with Peel Public Health and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to assess risks. With many birds migrating back to Ontario for the spring migration, our investigation and response will be ongoing.”
Avian flu affects all types of birds, like ducks, swans & geese – especially those that tend to stay in flocks or congregate together. The viral disease affects many bird populations’ respiratory, digestive and nervous systems. The virus is transmitted from bird to bird through secretions, feces, contaminated feed, water and equipment.
Last year, several cases of avian flu were found across Canada. Many municipalities across the province and GTA, including Mississauga, are receiving several reports of sick or dead birds. The risk of transmission to humans is low and does not typically pass from birds to humans. However, it is high among wild or domestic birds like turkeys and chickens. In some cases, pets like birds, cats and dogs can contract the flu.
Smith adds, “Despite the low risk of humans contracting the flu, people should still be cautious and avoid going near or handling wild birds or other wildlife. Other wildlife is also susceptible to the flu, so please remember to keep your distance. As a reminder, residents should see their health care provider should they become ill with flu-like symptoms within 10 days after handling wild birds or other wildlife.”
Infected birds and wildlife may have flu-like symptoms, including trouble breathing, sneezing, diarrhea, shaking, decreased energy, loss of appetite, blisters and in the case of turkey’s and chickens purplish-blue coloured wattles (the fleshy growth hanging from the head or neck).
There are federal and provincial measures in place to protect domestic poultry and treat avian flu outbreaks in domestic poultry operations. The flu virus can be active for a number of days, so the City is recommending precautions to help stop the spread of the flu:
Those participating in the Urban Hen Pilot Program should keep a closed flock, limit visitors, and avoid introducing new birds. Follow and familiarize yourself with best practices and disinfection measures to help prevent an outbreak. For more information on how to protect your birds from avian flu, visit Canadian Food Inspection Agency site here.
Reporting sick or dead birds
Residents are asked to contact 311 to report a sick or injured wild bird or animal, or the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative through the online reporting tool, by calling 1-866-673-4781 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to report any die-off incident of wild birds or mammals.
For more information about avian flu, visit the Ministry of Health.