You may have heard that there are a number of avian influenza cases currently affecting poultry farms in Canada. There is no evidence to suggest that the avian influenza virus can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of food, notably poultry and eggs (Health Canada, 2008). Follow the usual precautions when handling or eating poultry products: wash hands and surfaces often, keep raw poultry separate from everything else, cook to a safe internal temperature, and chill leftovers within two hours.
Health Canada says: “Although different strains of avian flu virus circulate year-round among birds, the virus does not usually spread to people.” Avian influenza is a viral infection that in almost all cases only affects birds. In the rare case that it is transmitted to humans, it is almost always through direct and prolonged exposure to infected birds.
Experts believe wild waterfowl are a natural ‘reservoir’ for avian influenza viruses. Many wild birds carry influenza viruses without becoming ill, due to a natural resistance, but the disease can be significant to domestic poultry. The virus can appear in either low pathogenic or highly pathogenic forms, referring to the impact the virus has on birds, not on the degree of threat to human health.
With avian influenza now present in several provinces as well as US states, the risk to all Canadian poultry flocks is currently high. This can be a very stressful time for everyone in the industry, whether or not avian influenza is present on your farm or in your region. There are several resources available for mental health support. It’s important to take care of your health and to access the appropriate resources as needed.
If you would like more information about how to prevent avian influenza in your flocks, signs to monitor for in your birds, what to do if you suspect AI on your farm and how it will be handled, please refer to this page with further information.