Notice to harvesters: Avian flu signs and precautions
As we are entering the Fall Harvesting season, NCC’s Environment and Natural Resources department would like to remind harvesters to exercise caution and promote safe handling of migratory birds that may appear to be acting abnormally. Please see the information outlined below, taken from the Government of Canada website concerning the Avian Influenza.
If you have any questions or concerns around the hunting and harvesting of migratory birds and eggs this year, please reach out to your local NCC Guardian.
What is avian influenza?
Avian influenza is a viral infection that is highly contagious among birds and is found in domestic poultry and wild birds, including ducks, geese, swans, gulls, terns, shorebirds, cranes, and raptors.
Wild birds, especially waterfowl, naturally carry avian influenza viruses. They are not always affected by the disease but can transmit it to other wild birds and domestic birds. Avian influenza viruses are classified as low or highly pathogenic based on their ability to cause disease in domestic poultry. HPAI viruses spread rapidly and cause severe disease in poultry. On rare occasions, avian influenza viruses can cause disease in humans.
Signs that a bird may have HPAI include
- tremors or lack of coordination
- swelling around the head, neck and eyes
- lack of energy or movement
- coughing, gasping for air or sneezing
- sudden death
Not all infected birds appear sick. Multiple dead birds in one location is also a sign that the virus may be present.
What is the risk to humans?
The risk of transmission of HPAI to humans from cases in wild birds is low. As a precaution, basic measures are recommended for hunters and other bird handlers to reduce the risk of disease and prevent spread of the virus:
- wear gloves,
- wash hands with soap and warm water,
- clean and disinfect equipment, and
- wash or change clothing.
It is safe for people to eat fully cooked waterfowl meat and eggs.
What precautions should you take when hunting game birds?
It is considered safe to hunt, handle and eat healthy game birds. However, exposure to avian influenza can occur when handling wild birds. To protect your health and to prevent the spread of the avian influenza virus, it is recommended you:
- Do not handle or eat sick birds or birds that have died from unknown causes.
- Wear gloves (e.g., vinyl, latex, nitrile, rubber) when preparing harvested birds and work outdoors, when possible.
- Avoid touching your face and do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling birds.
- Wash hands with soap and warm water immediately after you have finished handling or cleaning harvested birds or use hand sanitizer/wipe (at least 60% alcohol).
- After you are done cleaning, thoroughly clean and disinfect tools and work surfaces with soapy water, and then use a household disinfectant or bleach solution (25 ml or 5 tsp bleach to 2 L or 8 cups water).
- Immediately remove and wash or change clothing and footwear that may be contaminated with blood, feces or respiratory secretions.
If you become ill after handling a bird, contact your local health centre as soon as possible and inform them that you have been in contact with wild birds.
For a full outline of precautions to take when hunting migratory birds, harvesting eggs, and safely preparing both for eating, please visit this website.
The following poster is available for download and sharing amongst communities, please be aware of the signs of the avian flu and report suspected encounters.