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Avian flu

Burton's Pond signs provide direction to prevent spread of disease

Campus and Community

By Sandy Woolfrey-Fahey

Recently installed signs at Burton’s Pond on the St. John’s campus are discouraging people from feeding the birds.

Similar signs are in place at some city parks.

Newfoundland and Labrador continues to see impacts of H5N1 or the virus more commonly known as avian flu.

Preventive measures such as refraining from feeding birds reduce the chances of them coming in close contact with other infected birds or infected birds interacting with humans.

According to Dr. Bill Montevecchi, a professor of psychology, biology, and ocean sciences at Memorial, low levels of the virus have been around for many years.

Dr. Andrew Lang in the Department of Biology documented the virus’s presence.

A number of ducks on a grassy lawn in front of a pond and a brown and grey building
Feeding birds can cause the deadly avian flu to spread among animals and people.
Photo: Submitted

“In 2022 high levels of the virus began killing wild birds throughout the province and across the North Atlantic Ocean. Many tens of thousands of birds died,” explained Dr. Montevecchi.

The virus is spread between infected birds via saliva and feces, so close contact increases the risk of viral transmission.

Measures to decrease the spread such as reducing feeding areas will remain in place while risk, persistence and mortality associated with the virus remains high.

“In general, while many of us enjoy feeding birds, when it is done on the massive scales that we do, it tends to make wild animals dependent on us,” said Dr. Montevecchi.

It is important to report sick, dying or dead birds. The best way to make a report in the province is through the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture by calling (709) 685-7273.

Signage discouraging feeding the birds due to a provincial outbreak of Avian flu
A sign discouraging feeding birds due to a provincial outbreak of Avian flu have been installed at Burton’s Pond.
Photo: submitted

While very rare, the H5N1 strains of Avian flu can infect humans and can cause severe respiratory illness in humans who have been in close contact with infected birds.

There are no reports of cases contracted in Canada, but it’s recommended for humans and pets to keep a distance from birds.

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