The presence of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in Canada, with cases spreading rapidly across the country and confirmed detections in B.C. The BC SPCA is asking the public to temporarily remove backyard bird feeders and empty bird baths to prevent the spread of the disease.
Wild birds play a key role in the spread of HPAI. Although waterfowl (including ducks, geese and gulls) and raptors (eagles, hawks and owls) are highest risk, avian influenza viruses can infect all avian species. The virus is shed by infected birds through feces and respiratory secretions and is very resilient – the virus can survive in the environment for several months and continue to infect other birds!
Photo credit: Stephanie Watson
Bird feeders facilitate the spread of the disease by encouraging unnatural congregations of birds and attracting other wildlife including predators and rodents. Fallen seed is also an especially bad source of disease – when birds feed from the ground, they are also exposed to droppings that accumulate below a feeder. The presence of bird feeders and baths can also increase the risk of transmitting the virus between nearby animals like backyard chickens or turkeys.
Avian influenza – or “bird flu” – is a virus that can affect many different species of birds. This includes farm animals like chickens and turkeys, but can also affect pets and wild birds. The H5N1 strain is considered highly pathogenic, causing severe illness and death in birds.
On rare occasions, this virus can cause disease in humans that have close contact with infected birds, or heavily contaminated areas. We need to do everything we can to stop this virus in its tracks!
Help curb this serious disease by removing your bird feeders and emptying bird baths as well as monitoring for any signs of sick birds in your area. Sick birds may appear lethargic, unusually “fluffed up”, have nasal discharge, or have excessively watery eyes or swelling of the head and eyelids. Contact the BC SPCA at 1-855-622-7722 for advice about sick birds or for help finding your local wildlife rehabilitation centre.
Report sightings of sick or dead wild birds to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) at 1-800-567-2033. If the report is assessed to require further investigation, a biologist may retrieve the carcass for further testing. Please do not bring deceased birds to a wildlife rehabilitation centre or veterinary clinic as they will not be able to test for the disease.
Written and released by BC SPCA. No edits and no additions.
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