Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been detected in Alberta, as well as many other provinces across Canada. A surge in cases is expected to occur again this spring as large numbers of migratory birds carrying the virus make their way back to/through Alberta.
Avian influenza is a contagious type A influenza virus that affects domestic and wild birds. Type A influenza viruses are present in a wide variety of birds and mammals. Type A influenza viruses are classified based on the severity of disease (pathogenicity) they cause to infected chickens and are categorized as being either low pathogenicity (LPAI; mild symptoms) or high pathogenicity (HPAI; severe symptoms and death). It is important to note that wild birds may be infected with HPAI and remain asymptomatic or they may also experience symptoms or death.
While HPAI can infect all avian species, there appear to be higher rates in waterfowl, corvid, and raptor species (especially the scavengers that would feed on waterfowl).
Confirmed HPAI-positive premises in Alberta domestic flocks to date:
- Spring 2022: 31
- Summer 2022: 4
- Fall 2022: 25
- Winter 2023: 0
The HPAI virus is passed primarily in feces and can survive in the environment for extended periods in the right conditions (cold and/or wet). A high viral load in the environment near your flock poses a significant risk. Events where poultry and poultry keepers from different locations commingle, such as swaps/sales, auctions, fairs, or shows, always carry a risk of transmission of poultry diseases. Avoiding these locations during high-risk HPAI periods is recommended.
Proactive Flock Management
- Think of ways to manage your flock should HPAI cases surge during the coming spring migration.
- Be mindful of the fact that HPAI virus may have over-wintered in your surrounding environment and may be present even before migratory birds arrive.
- Report signs of illness and sudden deaths in your flock to your flock veterinarian and/or the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian (OCPV).
If you suspect your flock may have HPAI, consult your flock veterinarian. Alternately, you can contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at 403.338.5225; or the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian at 780.427.3448 (toll-free 1.800.524.0051).
Focus on Biosecurity
- Limit the visitors you choose to allow near your flock.
- Avoid visiting other premises that keep poultry, including poultry shows/sales.
- Have a separate isolation coop at least 30 feet from your main coop. Use this to move any sick birds to for observation, and/or to house and monitor new additions or returning birds (after shows) for a minimum of 30 days before introducing them to your flock.
- Have dedicated footwear (and ideally, clothing) for accessing your coop. Do not wear these outside your coop/run and keep them separate from your other footwear.
- Reduce the chances of direct contact between your flock and wild birds (or wild bird feces) by not allowing your birds to free-range.
- Predator-proof your coop/run and have pest-control strategies in place to prevent wild birds and mammals from bringing HPAI into your flock.
- Wash/sanitize hands before and after attending to any poultry.
Wild Flock Infections
The wild bird migratory season was a significant risk factor with most flock infections occurring in the spring and fall. Many species of wild birds have been affected including snow geese, Canada geese, owls, hawks, ravens, magpies, cormorants, and grebes. Note that some may carry the virus while showing no signs. Wild mammals including skunks, coyotes and foxes have also been affected.
Given the large numbers of mortalities in some wild bird species last year, sampling will likely be targeted at larger die-offs. Such incidents can be reported by calling (toll-free) 310-0000 and asking to speak with a wildlife specialist, or by visiting the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative website. Click Here for more information on HPAI in wild birds.