To reduce your risk of Avian Influenza.
- Stay away from wild birds.
- Avoid contact with domestic birds that appear to be sick or have died unless you are wearing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) (PDF, 250 kb).
- Avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after contact with birds or their droppings.
- Practice safe food handling cooking practices for poultry and eggs.
- Report sick or dead wild birds or animals via the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative online reporting tool or my calling 1.866.673.4781. If found on municipal property, also notify your local municipality.
What are the symptoms of HPAI in humans?
Based on the studies of patients with the HPAI H5N1 virus, signs can range from very mild to severe. The most common signs include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle and/or body aches
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Less commonly, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or seizures can occur. Diarrhea is more common with avian influenza than with influenza due to human viruses.
It is important to tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and if you have been around birds or animals in the past 10 days, and especially important if you have been around sick or dead birds or potentially infected animals and did not wear any personal protective equipment. Specific tests to detect avian influenza in people are available. If you do not have access to a health care provider, please call Health Connect Ontario at 811.
Should I be concerned about traveling outside of Canada or in areas where there is Avian Influenza?
As an important measure before you travel outside of Ontario or Canada, visit Public Health Agency of Canada’s web site to determine if there are any active advisories for the region to which you are travelling.
While traveling there are important precautions you should take to help safeguard your health, including:
- Avoid visits to poultry farms or bird markets,
- Do not eat undercooked eggs or poultry; and
- Practice proper hand hygiene. Bring along an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- If you have a fever and respiratory illness within 10 days after returning from a region affected by avian influenza, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
How can I protect myself and what precautions should I take?
While the risk of human infection with avian influenza viruses remains very low, individuals should be cautious when handling wild birds or potentially infected animals. As a general guideline, members of the public should avoid handling live or dead wild birds or potentially infected animals. If contact with wild birds or potentially infected animals is unavoidable, wear gloves or use a doubled plastic bag and avoid contact with blood, body fluids and feces. You should always wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards.
While the annual human influenza vaccine does not protect against avian influenza, it will help prevent you from getting seasonal influenza, which could weaken your immune system or resistance to other infections.
Is it safe to eat poultry or game meat?
- Follow safe food handling practices. The transmission of avian influenza viruses to people from eating uncooked or undercooked eggs or poultry is unlikely. However, proper safe food handling practices such as hand washing and keeping poultry and egg products separate from other food products to avoid cross contamination should be followed.
- Thoroughly clean contaminated surfaces on tools and work surfaces with hot, soapy water and then disinfect the area using a household disinfectant.
- Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before handling food, and after handling raw meat, poultry, or eggs.
Follow these guidelines if you handle poultry or game bird meat:
- Cook pieces and cuts of game meat to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F).
- Whole birds should be cooked to an internal temperature of 82°C (180°F)
- Do not feed uncooked or undercooked poultry or game bird meat to cats or dogs.
I work with birds. How can I protect myself?
For people with occupational exposure to live birds that are showing signs of illness, where a splash or aerosols could be generated (e.g., using high pressure hoses or in ponds), or if you are working in an area where H5N1 has been diagnosed in wild birds or poultry, the following additional personal protective equipment (PPE) is recommended:
- Fit-tested and seal-checked respirators (e.g., N95 or equipment with equivalent protection)
- Eye protection (e.g., tight-fitting non-vented safety goggles)
- Wear heavy duty rubber gloves when handling birds that can pierce skin with beak or claws, otherwise it is essential to wear rubber gloves or disposable gloves (e.g., latex or nitrile) for cleaning and sanitation procedures.
- Impervious disposable gown or coveralls
- Disposable protective shoe/boot covers or rubber or polyurethane boots.
You should be properly trained in the proper fit-testing, wearing and use of respirators, safe removal of respirators, proper disposal of disposable respirators or cleaning and disinfection of reusable respirators, and medical contraindications to respirator use. In addition, it is imperative that you be trained in and follow procedures for the donning and doffing of PPE and its cleaning and sanitization or disposal. Hand hygiene must be performed before donning PPE, just prior to removing facial protection and after PPE has been completely doffed. Whenever possible, always work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
If you become ill after handling birds, see your health care practitioner. Be sure to mention that you have been in contact with wild birds or poultry. Please reference this tool kit for additional information on how to protect yourself.
What should I do if my pet may have been exposed to avian influenza?
If you think that your pet is sick after being exposed to avian influenza, please call your veterinarian. To date in Ontario, there has been one confirmed case of a domestic dog contracting H5N1. For information on how to protect your pet visit Pets and H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)
Is it safe to feed or observe backyard birds or wild waterfowl?
People should observe wildlife, including birds, at a safe distance. People should practice proper hand hygiene, especially when handling bird feeders or equipment. Bird feeders should be washed with soap and water frequently to reduce the chance of bacterial or viral contamination. Owners of small flocks and pet birds may want to consider removing wild bird feeders and bird baths to protect their birds from possible exposure to wild birds that may be infected with AI.
What should I do if I find a dead animal or wild bird(s) in my backyard or in a park?
Please call Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at – 1.800.673.4781 or use the online reporting tool Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative online reporting tool to report the finding of sick or dead wild animal or birds. If they determine that the sample is appropriate for testing, they will advise you as to how to safely collect and store the animal or bird(s) and will provide you with a pre-paid shipping container for submission.
If the dead animal or bird(s) is not being collected by authorities, then avoid handling the bird altogether, or dispose of the bird in the following manner:
- Use a small shovel or large tongs, or using rubber gloves place the carcass in a bag without touching it. Double bag the carcass.
- Bury the carcass several feet deep on your private property where it will not be disturbed.
- Alternatively, the carcass may be placed in the garbage.
- Note that some regions do not allow carcasses to be placed in the garbage. If you are unsure, contact your local municipality.
- Always dispose of carcasses in a manner such that no one could handle it again.
- People handling animals or birds (live or dead) should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately afterward.
Is it considered safe to hunt, handle, and eat healthy game birds?
Yes, especially if the following precautions are observed:
- Do not handle or eat sick birds or birds that have died from unknown causes.
- Avoid direct contact with blood, feces, and respiratory secretions of all wild birds.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning game.
- Work outside whenever possible.
- Wear a medical mask when cleaning game.
- Wear gloves when handling or cleaning game. Wash hands, and clothing with soap and warm water immediately after you have finished.
Thoroughly clean contaminated surfaces on tools and work surfaces with hot, soapy water and then disinfect the area using a household disinfectant. Immediately remove and wash clothing that may be contaminated with blood, feces, or respiratory secretions.
- Cook pieces and cuts of game meat to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F).
- Whole birds should be cooked to an internal temperature of 82°C (180°F).
- If you become ill while handling birds or shortly thereafter, see your health care provider. Inform your health care provider that you have been in contact with wild birds.