Advising Public to Report Dead Wild Birds
As part of a new province-wide project to assess the risk of avian influenza, the Middlesex-London Health Unit is asking residents to call a new toll-free number to report any dead wild birds they may observe.
The Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (CCWHC) is coordinating the surveillance effort and is particularly interested in dead waterfowl such as ducks and geese, especially where significant numbers of dead birds are observed in one location. Anyone observing dead wild birds is asked to contact the CCWHC at 1-866-673-4781.
The provincial effort is part of a national project, the goal of which is to monitor the many strains of avian influenza that are naturally present in wild birds. One way this data is tracked is through the collection and testing of dead birds. So far, no avian influenza viruses of concern have been found in Ontario. However it is important to continue testing dead birds in order to detect the presence of such strains should they become present in the province's wild or domestic bird populations.
Public involvement is key to the success of the monitoring program. While the CCWHC is calling on the public to report dead wild birds, it notes that not all birds called in will be collected for testing. The Centre also reminds individuals that they should not handle dead birds with their bare hands.
The information gained through the national wild bird survey is also helping Canadian animal health experts to better understand the influenza viruses present in both resident and migratory bird populations. In certain situations, testing of wild birds can provide an early warning system for viruses of concern to domestic poultry health.