H5N1 cases confirmed in Markham and Chatham-Kent

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed cases of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in non-residential poultry flocks in Markham and Chatham-Kent.

The agency confirmed presence of the “highly pathogenic” virus in a press release on Thursday.

According to the CFIA website, 10 cases of H5N1 have been confirmed in Ontario in the past two weeks.

While the disease can be fatal to birds, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs reports avian influenza is not a public health concern of food safety risk for anyone not in regular contact with infected avians.

“Avian influenza is not a threat to food safety and Ontario poultry and eggs are safe to eat when proper handling and cooking takes place,” the ministry’s report states.

“People working with poultry are strongly encouraged to follow all public health guidelines and maintain strict biosecurity.”

The new cases appear as Toronto council voted on Thursday to allow residents to continue keeping backyard hens as pets and providers of eggs in some of the city’s neighborhoods until at least March 2023.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed across Ontario the past two weeks.

On March 21, the CFIA reported the virus was found in a wild red-tailed hawk near Waterloo. Since then, the CFIA confirmed cases of H5N1 in several regions in the province, including in backyard flocks in Prince Edward County and Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.

The CFIA could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

The Toronto Zoo closed its aviaries on March 29. On March 31, the CFIA began controlling movement of birds in and out of areas the virus has been identified.

Cases of avian influenza have been confirmed across Canada. Quebec wildlife authorities reported three cases of H5N1 in Canadian geese near Montreal on Monday. Cases have been reported in Newfoundland and Labrador in recent months and the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Brookfield, NS announced it is raising funds to build a quarantine space for infected birds.


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