A case of bird flu has been confirmed in eastern Ontario

The Eastern Ontario Health Authority says the risk of human transmission remains low and is working closely with provincial and federal partners to monitor the situation.

Health officials in eastern Ontario have confirmed a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1.

Avian influenza (AI) is a disease caused by a virus that mainly infects poultry and wild birds such as geese, ducks and coastal birds, and H5N1 is a strain that kills both wild birds and commercial poultry.

Dr Paul Rumeliotis, a medical officer at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), says the risk of human transmission remains low.

“The current strain of the virus has been reported to be lower than normal concerns about its spread to humans,” said Dr. Rumeliotis. “EOHU is working closely with provincial and federal partners, including the Ontario Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to monitor the situation.”

The Health Unit says that although the exact route of transmission from birds to humans is not known, most cases of bird flu in humans involve direct contact with live or dead infected birds or their feces – and that infection with it through insufficient consumption processed eggs or poultry is unlikely.

Symptoms of H5N1 in humans can range from very mild to severe, the most common being the following:

  • Fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose or stuffy nose
  • Muscle and / or body pain, headache, fatigue or tiredness
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Less common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or seizures. Diarrhea is more common with avian influenza than with human influenza viruses.

If you have been around birds in the last 14 days – especially sick or dead birds – and have not worn any personal protective equipment, we advise you to tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. You can also call Telehealth Ontario on 1 866 797-0000.

Residents are urged to contact the Canadian Wildlife Cooperative Health Center at 1,800,673-4781 to report cases of sick or dead wild birds. If you notice that a large number of waterfowl or poultry are dying in your area, we recommend that you call the EOHU at 613-933-1375 or 1 800 267-7120.