People who enjoy giving birds food and a sanctuary in Manitoba are being asked to put it on pause to slow the avian flu.
"We're facing an Avian Influenza outbreak at the moment," says Zoe Nakata, Executive Director at Wildlife Haven just outside of Winnipeg. "We've been following it quite closely for the past several weeks. It's something that's been happening in other parts of Canada and all over North America actually."
According to a media bulletin released on Wednesday, samples from several snow geese were collected in southwestern Manitoba near Waskada and a single sample from a bald eagle was collected in the Dauphin area. A sample from each location has tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), subtype H5N1.
The avian flu was something the wildlife centre has been expecting as the spring migration has birds returning to Canada after the winter months. It's a very contagious virus that affects many different bird species.
"In the past, it's been quite devastating for chicken farms, both domestic or more of a commercial setting. This includes backyard chicken coops."
The centre says there are ways the public can help minimize the spread of the avian flu.
"We're asking the public to minimize how we encourage birds to gather. Things like feeding birds at a duck pond or even the bird feeders in our yards encourage them to gather. This can create an opportunity for the virus to spread."
Important information - Removing bird feeders and bird baths - April 18, 2022— Wildlife Haven Rehab (@WildlifeHaven) April 18, 2022
Due to recent Avian Influenza developments, we are now recommending that bird baths and bird feeders be taken down to help mitigate the risk of spreading this contagious virus. 1/7 pic.twitter.com/20tQRsQWzo
If people want to keep their feeders and bird houses up, Nakata encourages people to clean the them with disinfectant every 48 hours.
"We're seeing it be much more severe in wildlife this year compared to past outbreaks."
Birds that are symptomatic of the avian flu have roughly a 90 per cent rate of death.
"If you see any animal that looks sick, you can give the Wildlife Haven hotline a call. If you see any groups of deceased animals, please give the provincial tip line a call."
The Wildlife Haven hotline for injured animals is 204-878-3740 and the Province of Manitoba TIP line is 1-800-782-0076.
The risk of avian influenza to human health is low. There are no known cases of transmission of this strain of the virus from birds to humans in North America. Still, Nakata says if people are disposing of dead birds, they should do so with caution and wear a mask and gloves.