More than 3,000 common eider ducks found dead on Nunavut's South Hampton Island this summer were infected with avian cholera, a scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service says.

Although avian cholera is a naturally-occurring disease in birds, it has never been detectedthat far north,Grant Gilchrist told CBC News Friday.

"It's pretty grim when you consider the island is only 800 metres long and there's over 3,000 dead birds and these are large birds," Gilchrist said.

"The smell is awful and it attracts a lot of herring gulls and it's a mess."

As far asintervention, Gilchrist said there is really nothing that can be done to help the birds.

"It really has to take its course and we're trying to monitor it to see how widespread it is and whether the problem is growing in Nunavut," he said.

Gilchrist is concerned because it is not known where the disease is coming from or how fast it is spreading.

The disease was first detectedin northern Quebec three years ago when about 200 dead birds were found.

Gilchrist said they plan to hold meetingsin northern Quebec to inform people there about the growing problem.

More comprehensive research will be conducted next summer, he said.

Avian cholera is not the same as avian flu and cannot be passed on to humans. The disease spreads quickly when a large population of birds gathers in one area.