Will highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI) strike North America this year?

With no serious AI outbreaks in North America yet this year, it is easy to become complacent about the true degree of risk that AI represents.  However, we can learn a lot about the current level of risk by examining how the disease has been changing in other parts of the world.  Some key points to consider are:

  • AI outbreaks in China are still active.
  • H5N8, the strain that has been plaguing Europe for the past year, has still not been resolved. Most recently, 19 cases of highly pathogenic H5N8 were reported in Italy.  The spread of the European H5N8 has been linked in part to migratory birds.
  • Europe and Asia have been on high alert for AI all year. Normally, seasonal lulls would be expected in hot weather.  However, even Africa has continued to have outbreaks throughout this period.
  • When AI infects a flock, it can spread quickly through the barn population and then potentially spread to other farms through direct contamination by people or equipment, through the air, or even through rodents and flies.
  • This year, dry conditions have led to less open water in Alberta, which means waterfowl are more concentrated, leading to an increased risk of AI transfer among birds or between species.
  • Watch for dead migratory birds and other wild birds in your area. You can double-bag them and bring them to the provincial vet labs in Airdrie or Edmonton.

Keep reading to find out more about how to protect your farm from Avian Influenza.