Avian Flu: Alberta Officials Begin Monitoring Birds for Virus

The Canadian province of Alberta, as part of a national survey, is monitoring wild waterfowl and shorebirds for possible avian influenza virus.

Alberta's surveillance program will focus on wild waterfowl and shorebirds found dead during migration from July to October. According to the government of Alberta, these birds may have used Arctic breeding grounds and may have come into contact with birds that migrated from Asia, where the dangerous Eurasian H5:N1 strain of virus has spread from domestic poultry.

The Alberta monitoring program will not include wild birds in urban or residential areas.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development staff members will look for and collect dead waterfowl and shorebirds during the course of their work. Other government departments and cooperating agencies will be involved.

The provincial government is encouraging its residents to submit or report any waterfowl and shorebirds that they find dead in the province. These include ducks, geese, swans, plovers, sandpipers and phalaropes.

As swans seem particularly vulnerable to the H5:N1 virus, people in remote areas of northern and central Alberta where swans nest are urged to report or collect any swans found dead.

Dead waterfowl or shorebirds should be submitted fresh or should be frozen if they cannot be delivered to a Fish and Wildlife office within 24 hours, the Alberta government says. Rotten or dried-out carcasses cannot be tested for avian influenza, according to the government.

The Alberta government recommends the following basic precautions when handling dead wildlife:

  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Place a plastic bag over your hand, or use a stick to move the bird into a box, container or double plastic bags to avoid contact with it.
  • Wash your hands and disinfect surfaces that come into contact with the dead birds.
  • Any unusual wildlife mortality should be reported to a Fish and Wildlife office.

The Alberta government has created a Web page with information on avian influenza in wild birds.

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