Birds monitored for viruses

The annual Wild Bird Influenza Survey is underway, keeping an eye on disease in birds as they go through their fall migration.

Wild Bird Influenza Survey is underway across Atlantic Canada

The annual Wild Bird Influenza Survey is underway, keeping an eye on disease in birds as they go through their fall migration.

Seagulls and other shore birds are particularly susceptible to avian influenza.

The work in Atlantic Canada is part of a national survey that tries to detect influenza in birds across the country and is connected to an international program advocated by the World Organisation for Animal Health and the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Avian influenza is not only dangerous for birds, but potentially for humans as well.

"Ultimately, birds are the reservoir for all different strains of avian influenza virus, including the nasty ones that that can affect humans, although that only spills over into humans rarely," said Scott McBurney, a wildlife pathologist at Charlottetown's Atlantic Veterinary College.

"It's really important to monitor avian influenza virus in bird populations, specifically gulls and waterfowl populations and shorebirds. They're the ones that are most commonly infected with the virus."

Eighty one birds were tested in the Atlantic region over the last year. None tested positive for avian influenza.

The survey includes the testing of live and dead birds.  Anyone finding a dead bird should contact the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.

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