Wild birds believed to have avian flu found in Halton Region

Halton Region says it is finding wild birds with suspected cases of avian flu in the community.

The risk of avian flu spreading to humans is very low, but your pets could get infected if you're not careful

Geese in the air.
Halton Region is warning people amid the detection of avian flu in the community. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Halton Region says it is finding wild birds with suspected cases of avian flu in the community.

It said in a media release Tuesday the flu usually spreads among wild bird populations but can sometimes affect commercial poultry or other animals.

The region includes Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville but it didn't specify where the birds have been found or how many.

The types of birds that could be impacted include chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl, among others. Avian flu has recently been detected in cities across the country.

"The risk of avian flu spreading to humans is very low," said Dr. Joanna Oda, Halton's associate medical officer of health.

"Most human cases of avian flu have been traced to unprotected contact, such as not wearing gloves, protective wear, face masks, respirators or eye protection, with infected poultry or their droppings."

The region says if you get sick with the flu within 10 days after handling wild birds or wildlife, visit your health-care provider.

Halton Region Public Health has tips to keep people safe, including:

  • Avoid direct contact with wild birds and other wild animals. Observe them only from a distance.
  • Contact your municipality and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to report ill or dead birds or animals.
  • If you can't avoid contact with a dead bird or animal wear gloves, place the animal in a doubled plastic bag and tie it closed.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Consider removing backyard bird feeders and bird baths or place them as far away from family pets as possible and clean them with one part bleach to nine parts water every two weeks or sooner.
  • Keep family pets away from birds and fecal matter.
  • Do not attempt to rescue birds in distress, especially on any bodies of water.

Last year saw explosive outbreaks of the H5N1 avian flu virus in poultry populations throughout the world, including in Canada, where roughly 4.7 million domestic birds were infected. Close to 270 farms and production facilities saw outbreaks in 2022, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The CFIA recently found avian flu at two locations in Ontario, leading to the Toronto Zoo closing most of its bird enclosures to guests because some of the cases were detected within 200 kilometres of the zoo.

One was at a non-commercial property in Chatham-Kent on March 10, and a second was at a commercial property in the Township of West Lincoln, southeast of Hamilton, on March 14.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.