Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

September 02, 2011 12:18 ET

Canada's Wild Bird Survey for Avian Influenza Underway

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 2, 2011) - As wild birds begin their fall migration, Canada's seventh annual Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey is underway. The survey is part of global efforts advocated by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to detect highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses that could threaten the agricultural sector and human health.

"The wild bird survey is an important part of Canada's avian influenza prevention and preparedness biosecurity strategy," said Dr. Brian Evans, Canada's Chief Veterinary Officer. "It's an early warning system designed to detect highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses such as the Eurasian strain of H5N1. To date this highly pathogenic H5N1 strain has never been found in Canada."

Earlier this week the OIE and the FAO noted the emergence of a new strain of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus. While the OIE said that the genetic mutation is not an immediate cause for alert, both organizations recommended sustained monitoring of avian influenza viruses.

Canada's wild bird survey is carried out by the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre on behalf of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Environment Canada, as well as provincial and territorial government partners and the US government.

If the survey were to detect a highly pathogenic virus in wild birds, the CFIA would alert producers in the area and conduct heightened surveillance in domestic poultry. The CFIA routinely monitors for avian influenza viruses in commercial flocks.

The survey includes testing of wild birds found dead, which is designed to detect highly pathogenic influenza viruses in the wild. The goal for 2011–2012 is to sample at least 3000 dead wild birds across Canada.

Anyone who finds a dead wild bird should contact the Canadian Cooperative Wild Life Health Centre at 1-866-544-4744 or visit the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre website at

The survey also includes a live bird component intended to track the viruses circulating in the wild bird population, as well as the genetic changes and exchanges that occur in these viruses over multiple years. This year's survey will sample approximately 600 live ducks in the Prairies, and approximately 2000 in Quebec, Nunavut and the Maritime provinces.

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