Bird hobbyists and owners of backyard flocks alerted to danger of avian influenza

·2 min read

HURON-KINLOSS – Huron-Kinloss council members want members of the public to be made aware of a serious issue that could have a devastating impact on local poultry producers.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in Ontario.

A letter from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, signed by Lisa Thompson, agriculture minister, was sent to the township and included in the April 20 meeting agenda package. The letter provides an update on actions being taken by the province to limit the spread of the virus.

Deputy Mayor Don Murray, who chaired the council meeting, drew attention to the item, saying, “This is a very serious problem.”

A Minister’s Order has been issued under the Animal Health Act 2009 temporarily prohibiting events including bird shows, bird sales and swaps, portions of fairs where birds are exhibited, sport and educational displays where birds are brought from multiple locations, and vaccination gatherings for birds from multiple locations – any events where birds from different areas are commingled. The order expires May 9 but may be extended.

The hope is that pausing these events will help protect the province’s poultry industry.

It goes beyond commercial poultry producers, but includes hobbyists and people with backyard flocks.

The letter assures that the virus is not a threat to food safety but impacts domesticated and wild birds. Ontario poultry and eggs are safe to eat when proper handling and cooking takes place. However, additional biosecurity measures are strongly encouraged for people working with birds.

Murray said that while backyard chickens aren’t an issue in Huron-Kinloss, “they’re near us.” He asked that information in the letter be provided to residents in a newsletter, and raised the possibility of a delegation from CFIA at a future council meeting “to show how serious this is.”

Coun. Jim Hanna agreed that information should be posted on the township website. While he said he didn’t know much about the virus, he noted, “It sounds scary to me,” and added that when the emerald ash borer was confined to more southern regions, no one worried.

“It’s here now,” he said grimly.

CAO Mary Rose Walden said the information could be put in a newsletter and sent out with the tax bills.

Murray continued by saying a few types of wild birds are affected by the virus.

“Some municipalities have asked people to take down bird feeders,” said Murray.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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