The public is being asked to report any sick or dead wild birds they notice as cases of the highly contagious avian flu have shown up in the territory.
The carcasses of two waterfowl found in southern Yukon confirmed the presence of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 virus, Yukon government program veterinarian Kristenn Magnusson said in a statement.
Disease outbreak is happening in birds across the country, and the strain of flu was given the designation of ‘highly pathogenic’ because it causes severe illness and a high death rate in birds.
Migratory birds carry the virus and with spring migration ongoing, further cases in the Yukon are expected, Magnusson said.
“This is something the Government of Yukon takes seriously,” she said. “Animal health unit veterinarians actively track diseases in the Yukon when they appear or are transmitted to monitor and safeguard the health of Yukon wildlife and domestic animals.”
Those with domestic poultry and livestock are advised to protect their birds and animals with information available from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at canada.ca.
Pigs can also get influenza viruses and need to be housed separately from poultry, it was noted.
Bird owners can provide their contact information to the territory’s agriculture branch to receive updates and information. The branch can be reached at 867-667-5838 or 1-800-661-0408, and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If the flu affects a domestic flock in the Yukon, there will be a joint response between the Yukon government and Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
“We will help Yukon bird producers contain the virus and, under quarantine order, compensation is available for birds that are destroyed due to the virus,” Magnusson said.
While it’s possible for humans and other mammals to be infected with avian flu, it is rare. Residents are advised to keep pets away from bird carcasses and consider keeping pets indoors or leashed in areas that birds often frequent.
“Human cases of this strain of avian influenza are very uncommon,” Magnusson said. “Human illness tends to be caused by close contact with infected live or dead poultry. While the risk of human infection with avian influenza viruses is low, individuals should be cautious when handling sick or dead birds.
“If you become ill after handling birds, see your doctor or call Yukon Communicable Disease Control (YCDC) at 867-667-8323.”
Reports of ill or dead wild birds can be made to the TIPP line at 1-800-661-0525 or yukon.ca/TIPP.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com