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Ontario's rise in avian flu cases forces Safe Wings Ottawa to hold off on bird rescues

Instead, any dead, injured or sick wild bird is found must be reported to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.

With the avian flu on the rise in Ontario, a local bird rescue says it will have to refuse to care for certain fowl until further notice.

On Thursday, March 31, Safe Wings Ottawa announced that it will not be able to properly treat infected birds — this includes no longer being able to rescue waterfowl.

For now, that responsibility will fall onto the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC).

“With [the avian flu] on the rise, unfortunately we do not have the facilities to properly quarantine or treat infected birds and will no longer able to rescue waterfowl until further notice,” a tweet issued from Safe Wings Ottawa on Thursday said.

In another tweet, Safe Wings said it is expecting a rise in cases as spring migration continues.

If a dead, injured or sick wild bird is found, Environment Canada advises not to touch it, but to report the incident immediately.

In the Ottawa region, that is the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative's (CWHC) Ontario office.

The CWHC comprises of wildlife disease diagnosticians and researchers, experts in population health, skilled educators and experienced policy advisors, their website explains.

Reports can be made through the cooperative’s website here.

As of Thursday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) detected the avian flu — also known as the bird flu — on three farms in southern Ontario.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza, classified as H5N1, has been spreading in wild bird populations across the world, according to the CFIA, and has been a significant concern as birds migrate back to Canada.

In a statement earlier this week, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs statement said there is no threat to food safety and avian flu is not considered a public health concern for people that are “not in routine contact with infected birds.”

“Because the disease is in migratory birds … we expect we will find other situations of avian influenza and that’s why it’s very important right now with these migratory birds to take all the measures,” Dr. Mary Jane Ireland, CFIA’s chief veterinarian officer, told City News. “Infected birds can shed avian influenza in their saliva, their nasal secretions, their feces, and it can also spread through contact with surfaces contaminated with the virus from infected birds like clothing, shoes, litter, feed and water.”

In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed avian flu infections in Canada. As a result, Canadian officials ordered the slaughter of about 19 million birds that included chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and pigeons at 20 poultry farm.

There were also two human cases of avian influenza A that year in B.C., both of which were mild.

- With files from Michael Talbot and Nick Westoll of CityNews

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