British Columbia

Bird baths, feeders should be removed to stop spread of avian flu: B.C. SPCA

The B.C. SPCA has asked the public to temporarily take down backyard bird feeders and empty any bird baths as avian flu continues to spread across the province.

Spilled seeds from feeders particularly raise risk of disease spreading, society says

Birds are pictured at a feeder in 2015. The B.C. SPCA is asking locals to temporarily remove backyard feeders as avian flu spreads in the province. (Yvon Theriault)

The B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has asked the public to temporarily take down backyard bird feeders and empty any bird baths as avian flu continues to spread across the province.

The society on Thursday said the disease can spread via feeders "because they encourage unnatural congregations of birds and attract other wildlife." 

Spilled seeds are especially dangerous, according to a statement, because birds feeding from the ground are also exposed to droppings piled up below the feeder. 

"On rare occasions, this virus can also cause disease in humans who have been in close contact with infected birds, or heavily contaminated areas," wrote Andrea Wallace, manager of wild animal welfare for the B.C. SPCA.

"We need to do everything we can to stop H5N1 [avian flu virus] in its tracks."

As for the public, on top of removing bird feeders and emptying bird baths, Wallace said the public should also keep an eye out for sick birds.

"Birds may appear lethargic, unusually 'fluffed up,' have nasal discharge, or have excessively watery eyes or swelling of the head and eyelids," she said.

There were five avian flu outbreaks among poultry flocks in the Okanagan and Metro Vancouver as of Wednesday. The virus can sicken many different species of birds, including farm animals like chickens and turkeys, but also wild and pet birds as well.

The H5N1 strain is considered highly contagious.

The affected farms have been placed under quarantine. B.C. has ordered all commercial poultry operators with more than 100 birds to move their flocks indoors until the spring migration ends in May to help stem the spread.

The latest confirmed infections are part of a larger outbreak sweeping across North America, including other provinces. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first human case of infection, though it said the risk to the public remains low.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has said the illness is not considered a significant concern for healthy people who are not in regular contact with infected birds.

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