Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia confirms case of avian influenza in goose in Halifax region

Nova Scotia has confirmed a case of avian flu in a wild goose found in the community of Grand Desert in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

CFIA said it is investigating 2 other 'disease situations' in the province

In this Nov. 18, 2012, file photo, a Canada goose takes off from a pond in Hutchinson, Kan. Bird flu has been detected in a wild goose in Grand Desert, N.S. (Lindsey Bauman/the Hutchinson News via Associated Press)

Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources says a case of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, has been detected in the community of Grand Desert, in the eastern part of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

A news release Tuesday said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the case in a wild goose on Friday. The provincial department said the bird was found alive, but had symptoms and died within 24 hours. 

Bob Petrie, the director of wildlife at the Department of Natural Resources, said in an interview that the public should exercise caution with birds.

He said the virus is not a "significant health risk" as the general public do not normally handle birds. His department is communicating with Public Health, Petrie said, to help inform the response.

"Avian influenza poses little risk to people, but the virus is highly infectious and potentially deadly in wild and domestic birds," he said in the news release.

"We urge the public to avoid feeding or handling wild birds like ducks, geese, pheasants, pigeons and gulls to prevent disease spread."

Petrie said it is an emerging situation and his department is co-ordinating with other agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the CFIA.

According to Petrie, his department is concentrating on tracking wild bird populations in order to prevent the spread.

Some wild species that have the virus can infect other birds while remaining asymptomatic themselves, the release said.

There are at least 15 types of avian influenza and some bird species are more likely to become very ill and die, according to the release. 

The public are urged to not handle live, sick or dead birds and to report sick or dead birds to the department at 1-800-565-2224.

The release said avian influenza has been detected in other parts of Canada and in the United States, and the province is working with Ottawa and other agencies to "monitor and respond to the situation."

CFIA identifies variant

The CFIA said in an email it is investigating a "disease situation" at two other locations in Nova Scotia and has placed both properties under quarantine as a precautionary measure. 

Samples taken by the CFIA have been sent to the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg for analysis, the email said.

The avian influenza found in the goose was of the H5N1 variant. The CFIA said the virus is spread by direct contact with infected poultry and surfaces contaminated with fecal matter, but human infection with H5N1 is rare.

According to the email, the risk to humans is low and, even if infected, human symptoms are often limited to conjunctivitis and mild respiratory disease.

"It is recommended that people working with poultry suspected of being infected with avian influenza, or in contact with such poultry, wear protective clothing," the email said.

"The CFIA reminds poultry farmers to remain vigilant and to apply strict biosecurity measures at all times."

Hope Swinimer of Hope for Wildlife, an animal rehabilitation organization in Seaforth that found the infected goose in nearby Grand Desert, said the centre has safety protocols and procedures for handling diseases that can spread from animals to humans.

She said she is hoping the centre can play a role in helping Nova Scotia deal with any outbreak and save the lives of animals. 

"What a lot of people don't realize is that one of our goals here at Home for Wildlife is research and being able to pinpoint where these cases are coming from," Swinimer said.

"We really hope we can be a part of the solution and help all of Nova Scotia know what's happening at any given time in our natural world."