Nunavut confirms 1st case of avian influenza in thick-billed murre

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A seagull stands in a parking lot in Eastern Passage, N.S., in November 2019. Nunavut has confirmed its first case of avian influenza in a thick-billed murre. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A seagull stands in a parking lot in Eastern Passage, N.S., in November 2019. Nunavut has confirmed its first case of avian influenza in a thick-billed murre. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

There have been three suspected cases of avian influenza in the territory, and now one case has been confirmed, according to the Nunavut government.

The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and the territory's health department confirmed announced the case in a news release Thursday.

The case was first detected on July 12 in a live thick-billed murre on Coats Island at the northern end of Hudson Bay during surveillance testing by the Canadian Wildlife Service.

In early August, a suspected case emerged in a herring gull on Tukarak Island near Sanikiluaq. The flu has also been suspected in a herring gull near Cambridge Bay.

All 10 provinces and the Yukon have detected avian influenza in both wild and domestic birds, and there have been widespread cases in the United States.

The risk of avian influenza to the general public is considered low, the release said.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the avian influenza virus can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of fully cooked game birds or eggs," the release reads in part.

"In general, human cases of avian influenza are caused by close, prolonged contact with infected live or dead poultry or
contaminated environments."

People handling or harvesting wild birds and eggs should wear gloves, wash their hands with soap and water, and clean dirty clothes and equipment as soon as possible, the department said.

Signs that birds may have avian flu include nervousness, trembling or lack of co-ordination, swelling around the head, neck and eyes, and diarrhea or sudden death.

The presence of multiple dead birds in an area is also a sign the virus is present.

Anyone who feels sick after handling a bird should contact their local health centre.

Death or illness in birds should be reported to the local conservation officer.