The Canadian government is going to expand its testing of migratory birds for avian flu this year, aiming to test twice as many birds as in 2005.
Plans for Canada’s Inter-agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey 2006 have been announced by representatives of Environment Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.
The testing will be conducted through spring, summer and autumn and will have a special focus on the North Atlantic region and include sampling in Iceland. Birds from both North America and Europe migrate from Iceland and officials fear birds migrating to North America may become infected by European birds. The 2006 Canadian survey will also include expanded testing of dead birds.
The survey partners expect to find a variety of AI viruses, most of which commonly circulate in wild birds with little further impact. Survey partners are most interested in AI viruses that are or have the potential to become highly pathogenic. The H5N1 virus strain currently circulating in Asia, Africa and Europe has demonstrated the ability to affect poultry and wild birds, as well as humans and other mammals.
Canada has developed strategies to respond to all anticipated AI findings in wild bird populations. In the case of a finding of a highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 in wild birds, a comprehensive response strategy would be implemented, including the establishment of quarantine zones with movement restrictions on commercial poultry and poultry products.