Environment Canada has confirmed that avian influenza highly pathogenic was first discovered on a farm in the Avalon Peninsula. It has also been detected in birds around St. John’s.
Officials from the City of St. John’s stated that the flu, also known as H5N1, was confirmed to have been detected in wild birds in areas like Quidi Vidi Lake, Bowring Park, and other areas where flocks of birds frequent.
“Like human flu, it also has variants that we call highly pathogenic. This means that they cause illness or death in birds infected with them,” said Ian Jones of Memorial University.
Residents have been asked by the city not to touch, feed or handle wild birds, such as ducks, geese, and pigeons.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and a report from World Organisation for Animal health (OIE), H5N1 was first identified on the island in mid December on an island exhibition farm.
Jones said that flu can circulate naturally in birds. This is why there are more cases in Europe, which indicates a higher risk to North American poultry flocks. The disease is common in birds such as turkeys, quails, aschickens, and guinea fowl, as well wild and pet birds.
Jones suspects that the flu may have come from Europe in the recent months. After an October windstorm, some species not normally seen in North America were discovered in the province.
“It was an enormous system filling almost the whole North Atlantic, producing very strong wind from northern Europe straight across, then down to Newfoundland including the Avalon Peninsula. He said that the system was a trap for migrating water foul, especially geese, from Europe.
“Birdwatchers in eastern Canada have observed an unprecedented amount of barnacle geese as well as pink-footed geese. These are two species of European geese that don’t usually occur here.”
Jones stated that there is little risk that humans will contract the disease. However, it would involve handling the bodies of infected animals. Jones stated that the poultry and agriculture industries pose the greatest risk.
The first case of the disease was discovered at an exhibition farm. It doesn’t produce poultry for sale.
According to OIE, 419 birds were found to have the flu. 360 of those birds died, and 59 had to die.
Country Ribbon, the largest poultry producer in the province, stated that production would not be affected and that strict monitoring was being done to ensure safety on their farms.