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Bird owners urged to take precautions to prevent spread of avian influenza virus

September 26, 2022

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) in Ontario domestic poultry.

Avian influenza (AI), commonly known as “bird flu,” is a contagious viral infection that can affect several species of food producing birds as well as pet birds and wild birds. AI viruses can be classified into two categories: low pathogenicity (LPAI) and high pathogenicity (HPAI) viruses, based on the severity of the illness caused in birds.

Owners of backyard flocks no matter what the size or species as well as commercial poultry producers should exercise extreme caution and invoke heightened biosecurity measures such as:

  • Keep poultry away from areas frequented by wild birds and wild bird droppings.
  • Maintain strict control over access to poultry houses and your premises.
  • Make sure equipment is cleaned and disinfected before taking it into poultry houses.
  • Do not keep bird feeders or create duck ponds close to poultry houses.
  • Maintain the highest sanitation standards.
  • Change footwear and prevent wearing contaminated clothing when entering the poultry house.

The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has issued a Minister’s Order under the Animal Health Act, 2009, for the purpose of limiting the commingling of birds from different locations in Ontario to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission in domestic birds by limiting direct contact.

Effective September 23, 2022, this Order temporarily prohibits events where birds commingle, such as bird shows, bird sales and swaps, portions of fairs where birds are exhibited, sport and educational displays where birds are brought from multiple locations, vaccination gatherings for birds from multiple locations, and prohibits the movement of birds to those events. Temporarily reducing direct contact between birds from different locations will limit the spread of avian influenza and protect flock health. For more information on the Minister’s Order, please visit OMAFRA’s avian influenza webpage.

Backyard hen/small flock owners in Prince Edward County are reminded that the Backyard Hen By-Law requires owners to register all hens with the Chicken Farmers of Ontario Small Flock Policy through their Family Food Program. Registering will ensure that small flock growers receive disease notices and guidance to protect their flock. The Family Food Program website also offers bird health and disease management guidance.

Avian influenza is not a threat to food safety but impacts domesticated and wild birds. Ontario poultry and eggs are safe to eat when, as always, proper handling and cooking takes place. People working with poultry should take additional precautions and are strongly encouraged to follow all public health guidelines and maintain strict biosecurity.

Visit the CFIA website to learn more about avian influenza.

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