Bird flu in Alberta: How to limit the spread

By Jasmine Vickaryous

As more birds migrate to Alberta for the spring, some carry an unwelcome trait.

H5N1, a strain of the avian flu, is on the rise in the province and conservationists are urging Albertans to help limit the spread.

“It’s fairly recent that this H5N1 strain of avian flu got into North America. It hit the east coast of the United States and just spread right on across,” said Mark Boyce, Chair in Fisheries and Wildlife for the Alberta Conservation Association. “If it gets into a flock, the whole flock needs to be destroyed.”

Boyce says it is mainly water birds like ducks and geese that are responsible for carrying the strain into Alberta.

“It doesn’t take very long; you know when they contract disease, they are dead within two or three days typically,” Boyce said.

Bird feeders can also be a haven for disease, and Boyce recommends putting them away for the season. However, he adds it’s not just songbirds that are at risk, wild birds such as eagles and Canadian geese have also tested positive for the virus.

For those hoping to house some chickens in their backyard, Annemarie Pedersen, Executive Director of Alberta Farm Animal Care says the avian flu poses a real threat to flocks.


“It is so important for anyone, with any amount of chickens to be aware of their role in biosecurity and possibly transmission of this disease,” she said.

Pedersen runs a backyard chicken program where she teaches a section on the avian influenza. She says chicken owners need to take extra precautions to protect their coop.

“Really be thoughtful about how they are taking care of those animals and really stepping up the biosecurity protocols. That means not letting them run loose, that means not letting people into your flock, that means not bringing outside birds in,” Pederson said. “There are so many different things you can do to protect the health and safety of your animals and all the chickens and poultry in this province.”

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