Avian Influenza Update

As the first wild ducks and geese begin their flight down south, highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, is once again hitting Alberta farmers hard.

A dozen new outbreaks have been detected last month in September and all, but one is in commercial flocks.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency there are currently 26 farms in Alberta with active infections, significantly more than any other province.

The outbreaks have led to the culling of more than 1.2 million in Alberta alone. Most are in around Edmonton and northern Alberta.

The fall migration is starting again which means the birds are congregating in larger numbers closer to gather which provides a better environment for all types of disease transmission, said Dayna Goldsmith, a diagnostic pathologist of U of C’s faculty of veterinary medicine, and a regional director with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, a research agency that takes reports of sick and dead birds.

Goldsmith said, we have had some new positive cases from the commercial side, which we do believe is originating from the wild populations, so this is the same strain. It hasn’t gone away, it just gotten quieter over the summer as the birds spread out.

HPAI is not a human food safety risk and while people can get sick with being in contact with infected birds, it is not especially dangerous to human health. Still, anyone handling dead birds are reminded to wash their hands and clothing well afterwards to avoid spreading the infection.

Researchers want to know the unexplained waterfowl or scavengers deaths- such as great horned owls for example have been impacted by scavenging dead ducks and geese, and they are more interested in cases where birds are found at the same time.