Remove bird feeders, bird baths to prevent avian flu spread, Manitoba wildlife centre asks

·2 min read
The Wildlife Haven says people should take down bird feeders in an effort to curb human-influenced gatherings of birds, which could spread avian flu. (Submitted by Tim Spicer - image credit)
The Wildlife Haven says people should take down bird feeders in an effort to curb human-influenced gatherings of birds, which could spread avian flu. (Submitted by Tim Spicer - image credit)

A Manitoba wildlife rehabilitation centre is taking a number of precautions to stop the spread of the highly contagious and deadly avian influenza, and is calling on people to do their part

The Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre in Île des Chênes, Manitoba, is temporarily not accepting certain birds as patients that are proven to be most susceptible to the bird flu.

While the province is considered to be in an outbreak, Canadian Wildlife Services says any bird admitted to wildlife rehabilitation centres must quarantine for 30 days.

That puts a great deal of strain on the small facility, said Zoe Nakata, the executive director of the centre.

Even so, staff are taking the guidance seriously because this strain of bird flu is impacting wild birds more so than any other, she said, and kills roughly 90 per cent of birds infected.

"We're really in uncharted territory at the moment and that's what makes us, obviously, very nervous. And we're really on the front lines here," Nakata said.

Charlie Neibergall/The Associated Press
Charlie Neibergall/The Associated Press

The wildlife centre is also calling on Manitobans to do their part.

Out of an abundance of caution, Nakata and the Wildlife Haven are suggesting people remove their bird feeders and bird baths as a way to protect all birds.

"It is to just help manage and decrease the amount of artificial gatherings that humans are creating for birds. Any time the birds are gathering, we're creating opportunity for the virus to spread," she said.

A spokesperson from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says backyard bird feeders and baths should be periodically cleaned.

But poultry producers and owners of small flocks or pet birds that have access to the outdoors should remove bird feeders from areas that are open to their birds to prevent contact with wild animals.

CFIA is investigating a number of bird flu outbreaks at poultry farms across Canada. Cases have also been detected in the U.S., directly south of Manitoba.

Dimas Ardian/Getty Images
Dimas Ardian/Getty Images

Manitoba Conservation is investigating two suspected cases of the virus. The first was identified in snow geese that died in southwestern Manitoba, while the second was a bald eagle in the Dauphin area that was observed with neurologic signs and humanely euthanized, says a Thursday update from the agriculture department.

The eagle was at one point in the care of the Wildlife Haven.

The risk of avian flu to human health is low, and there are no known cases of transmission of this strain of the virus, called H5N1, from birds to humans in North America, the province said in a news release.

Manitobans are asked to contact the province at 1-800-782-0076 if they find clusters of dead waterfowl, ravens, crows, gulls, or any large group of dead birds, and not to touch them.

The province is also advising poultry farmers to keep their birds indoors during the wild bird migration.

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