With geese starting to return to the community, many York Region municipalities including Newmarket are seeing cases of birds that have died or are infected with presumed avian influenza (H5N1), also known as bird flu. The Town of Newmarket's Animal Services team has responded to reports of geese in distress at Fairy Lake and stormwater management ponds.
York Region Public Health and Newmarket's Animal Services recommend a few steps residents can take:
- Keep a distance from wild birds and other wild animals, and don't touch, feed or handle them, especially if they look sick or are dead.
- The public is asked to report any animals, specifically geese or birds, found in distress, ill or dead to Newmarket Animal Services by contacting Customer Service at 905-895-5193 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and staff will respond. Press 3 if you're calling outside business hours. The Town will report to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.
- Consider removing backyard bird feeders and/or bird baths, and if this is not possible, move them far away from pets and clean them with 10% bleach at least once every two weeks.
- Avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with droppings from birds
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching any bird feeders, bird baths or any potentially contaminated areas.
- Keep cats indoors and dogs on a leash to limit the potential of your pet encountering an infected bird.
- Stay off all bodies of water as ice and water conditions are not safe; do not attempt to rescue birds in distress.
The Town's Animal Services team will continue to monitor the situation, in conjunction with counterparts across the region, alongside the Ontario Regional Centre of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.
Urban Hens (Backyard Chickens) are permitted in Newmarket. Residents with chickens are reminded that small flocks are susceptible to avian influenza and encouraged to review preventative measures to keep their birds healthy. Learn more by reviewing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's guidance: Protect your flock from bird flu, Ontario Ministry of Health's guidance for proper protective gear and York Region's guidance on hand washing.
If you see signs or symptoms of the virus, please contact your veterinarian.
For more information about Newmarket's Animal Services, including tips for pet safety and coexisting with wildlife, visit newmarket.ca/animalservices
About Avian Influenza (source: York Region Public Health)
Avian influenza is primarily transmitted through the wild bird population but can be transmitted to commercial poultry and other mammals. Rarely, avian influenza may also spread to people. Most human cases have occurred after close contact with infected sick or dead poultry, or after exposure to heavily contaminated environments (e.g., poultry barns or live bird markets).
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, wild birds in Canada and throughout the world are natural carriers of avian influenza viruses. Although some wild birds may get sick and die, others can be infected and still appear healthy.
Additional information on Avian Influenza is available through the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.