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Emergency Planning and Preparedness

Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza

April 2022

Avian Influenza

Avian Influenza (AI) is a disease caused by a virus that primarily infects domestic poultry and wild birds such as geese, ducks, and shore birds. Each year, there is a “bird flu” season, and some forms of the “bird flu” are worse than others. Wild birds, especially waterfowl, are a natural reservoir for mild strains of AI. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 is a strain known to kill both wild birds and commercial poultry.

In March 2022, HPAI H5N1 virus has been detected in Ontario in wild and commercial poultry. This same strain of the virus has also been found in many other jurisdictions across the world, including in other Canadian provinces and American states. Its spread has been primarily attributed to the migration of infected waterfowl.

The Province of Ontario is working with local, other provincial, federal, and international authorities to monitor and respond to cases of AI.

Key Facts About Avian Influenza

  • HPAI H5N1 is a strain of avian influenza virus currently affecting domestic poultry and wild waterfowl in several parts of the world. It causes high levels of mortality (death) in some birds, while other birds, such as some waterfowl and shorebirds, can be infected and not show any clinical signs.
  • The HPAI H5N1 virus does not easily cross from birds to humans and the current strain has been listed as lower than normal concern for spread to people.
  • AI is caused by different virus strains than those that cause seasonal influenza in humans.
  • An AI outbreak does not imply that there will be a human outbreak or a pandemic.
  • Most people that have been infected in other parts of the world had been in close contact with live or dead infected domestic poultry.
  • The risk to the public of catching the HPAI H5N1 virus from domestic poultry or products is very low and there is no need to change food consumption habits or travel plans.
  • Very specific measures are in place to protect domestic poultry and a cross-jurisdictional working group has been established to further refine the plans already in place to treat AI outbreaks in our domestic poultry operations.

For More Information

Ministry of Health
Health System Emergency Management Branch
1075 Bay Street, Suite 810
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5S 2B1
Fax : 416-212-4466
TTY : 1-800-387-5559
E-mail : emergencymanagement.moh@ontario.ca

 

Health workers and health sector employers can call the Healthcare Provider Hotline for more information
Toll free : 1-866-212-2272

CritiCall Ontario provides a 24 hour call centre for hospitals to contact on-call specialists; arrange for appropriate hospital bed access and facilitate urgent triage for patients
1-800-668-4357

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