Avian Influenza in Ontario

Written by Comms Team, April 5, 2023

Peterborough Public Health Urges Caution Around Wild Birds

With spring weather and bird migration, increasing avian influenza activity in Ontario is prompting Peterborough Public Health to urge the public to use caution around wild birds and poultry. Last year saw significant transmission of avian influenza in wild and domesticated bird populations. 

Yesterday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) confirmed that a domestic dog in Oshawa, Ontario tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza on April 1, 2023. According to the release by the CFIA and PHAC, the dog developed clinical signs of avian influenza and died after chewing on a wild goose.   

According to Julie Ingram, Manager of Environmental Health at Peterborough Public Health, avian influenza (AI), commonly known as ‘bird flu,’ is a Type A influenza virus that can infect domesticated and wild birds, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants, quail and guineafowl. “As of April 5, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is monitoring 2 suspected cases of Avian Flu involving a bald eagle and an otter. In 2022, two local poultry flocks were identified as infected in our region,” Ingram confirmed.   

While avian influenza is not a significant public health concern for healthy people who are not in routine contact with infected birds, all residents are reminded to avoid touching or handling dead birds and water fowl, or birds/fowl that appear to be unwell. In addition, pet owners are advised to ensure their pets do not consume or play with dead wild birds and not to feed pets raw meat from game birds or poultry. Residents are also encouraged to know how to identify the symptoms of avian flu in wild bird populations. Signs of avian influenza in wild birds include: 

  • Nervousness, tremors or lack of coordination 
  • Swelling around the head, neck and eyes 
  • Lack of energy or movement 
  • Coughing, gasping for air or sneezing 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Sudden death 

To report sick or dead wild birds, contact the Ontario regional centre of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at
1-(866)-673-4781 or report online. 

It is to date uncommon for avian influenza to impact human health; however, those who work directly with poultry should take additional precautions, follow all public health guidelines and maintain strict biosecurity measures.  All owners of domesticated birds are encouraged to adopt the following prevention and biosecurity measures to protect their birds: 

  • Keep poultry away from areas frequented by wild birds.  
  • Maintain strict control over access to poultry houses.  
  • Make sure that equipment is cleaned and disinfected before taking it into poultry houses.  
  • Do not keep bird feeders or create duck ponds close to poultry barns because they attract wild birds.  
  • Maintain strict sanitation measures  

Clinical signs of avian influenza in poultry flocks can vary widely, and may include:  

  • A drop in water and feed consumption  
  • Decreased egg production  
  • Soft-shelled eggs  
  • Coughing and sneezing  
  • Diarrhea  
  • Bruising of the limbs  
  • Listlessness  
  • Sudden increase in mortality rate  

If you are concerned about the health of your domesticated flock, contact your veterinarian or the local Canadian Food Inspection Agency Office at 705-742-6917. 

Residents can monitor the status of Avian Influenza infection in our region by visiting the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Dashboard.  

Residents are reminded that Ontario poultry remains safe to consume, provided standard food handling practices are followed. Avian influenza is not a threat to food safety. You should always use proper cooking times, temperatures and handling techniques with poultry, meat and eggs. For more information on food safety visit Food Safety webpage.  

For more information about avian influenza, visit Peterborough Public Health’s Avian Influenza webpage. 


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