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Health unit investigating avian flu detected in Lambton

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Journal staff

Lambton Public Health is investigating a confirmed report of H5N1 avian influenza in birds within Lambton County, the health unit said, Friday.

“The investigation includes close collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to contain, monitor, and respond to the situation,” a news release noted.

Avian influenza is a viral disease that mostly affects domestic poultry and wildlife such as geese, ducks, and shore birds. No human cases of the virus have been reported at this time and only those who have worked with the affected birds are considered at risk. LPH is currently conducting follow up with these individuals.

“Although it can be easily spread amongst birds, avian influenza does not easily cross from birds to humans, and the risk of human-to-human transmission is even lower,” said Dr. Karalyn Dueck, acting medical officer of health.

The H5N1 virus was first detected in Ontario in March 2022 with the same strain of the virus having been detected in many other jurisdictions around the world, including other Canadian provinces and American states.

The spread of avian influenza has primarily been attributed to the migration of infected waterfowl.

While the risk of human infection remains low, individuals should take precautions when interacting with and handling birds. This includes precautions such as hand washing and wearing personal protective equipment when appropriate.

Transmission of the virus from eating eggs or poultry is unlikely, however proper safe food handling practices should be followed, including keeping poultry and egg products separate from other food products as a general practice.

Individuals should avoid handling wild birds and are encouraged to report any sick or dead birds to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Centre by calling 1-800-673-4781.

Recommendations for individuals with backyard chickens or other domestic birds are available through OMAFRA. Details and associated bylaws for keeping backyard poultry are available by contacting your local municipality. Please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health’s website for more information on avian influenza and the status of the ongoing response, as well as additional frequently asked questions.

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