H5N2 avian influenza virus at a turkey farm near Woodstock, Ontario. Avian influenza (AI) can infect
domesticated and wild birds, including chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quails, ducks, geese, pigeons, psittacines and
guinea fowl. A highly pathogenic virus, as opposed to a low pathogenic virus, can causes severe illness and death
in domestic birds. Some of the bird species may not be affected to this extent but will be able to infect other
species. Birds become infected when they have direct contact with the secretions or feces of infected birds, or
with contaminated surfaces or infected food and water supplies.
People who raise small flocks or game birds for personal or limited commercial purposes should be aware of the
risk to their birds from diseases such as avian influenza. During an avian influenza outbreak, attending poultry
events can increase the risk of spreading diseases. Diseases are most often transmitted from one infected flock to
another flock by infected birds, and contaminated people or equipment. Moving infected birds can result in
transferring AI virus to a new location. If infected birds are moved through an auction, or “swap meet”, then the
AI virus can be transferred to multiple new locations. Birds that appear to be healthy can be infected and can
transmit AI to other birds before exhibiting any signs of disease themselves.
Birds with outdoor access should not share areas with wild ducks, geese, or shorebirds. Make sure free-range
areas do not have attractions for wild waterfowl, such as a pond or open feeders, which may become contaminated
with wild waterfowl droppings.
Be very diligent in observing your birds. Monitor mortalities and track feed and water consumption. Watch for
any signs of disease, such as depression, decreased feed consumption, drop in egg production, swollen wattles,
sneezing, gasping, a discharge from the nose or eyes, diarrhea or sudden death.
Early detection is critical. Should you suspect any signs of health concerns in your flock, contact your
Biosecurity Advisory April 17, 2015
Prevention is the key. Take the following steps:
• Avoid attending shows, sales, and swap meets during a disease outbreak.
• Do not allow people who have recently been in contact with other birds (e.g., their own or attending a bird
sale or show) near your birds.
• Do not share equipment with other bird owners.
• If you add new birds to your flock, at any time, make sure that you get their complete background
information, including a history of any diseases and vaccinations, and keep the vendor’s contact
information in the event that your birds become sick, so that they can be traced to their flock of origin.
• Keep new birds or those returning from shows separate and preferably in a different airspace
(quarantined) for at least 2-4 weeks after returning home, and monitor them for signs of illness. Clean and
disinfect the cages and equipment used for these birds. Use separate clothing, footwear and equipment for
quarantined birds, and handle them last. If the same equipment and clothing must be used, clean and
disinfect them before and after handling the birds. Wash your hands between the two groups.
Additional information is available at:
Agricultural Information Contact Centre: