NWT avian flu risk ‘receding’ despite YK gull testing positive


The NWT government says the risk of an avian flu outbreak in the territory is now receding, even though confirmation of a single case of the virus has now arrived.

A herring gull found near Yellowknife’s Niven Lake in June had highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, tests by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have confirmed.

In a press release, the NWT government said that confirmation had only just arrived, several months after the bird was recovered by a resident.

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Even so, the territory said no other cases had been reported and there was no indication of any outbreak.

“No reports of abnormal behaviour or sick birds have been received from those running agriculture operations,” the NWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources stated on Wednesday.

“In total, 54 birds have been tested for HPAI, with only one positive case to date. Since the beginning of the outbreak in Canada, there have been no instances of human infection reported.”

More broadly, Canada and the United States have been battling HPAI all summer in an attempt to stop the virus spreading.

In Alberta alone, more than a million birds are reported to have been euthanized in recent months. HPAI is highly infectious, spreading easily among birds, but is rarely contracted by humans. Cases that do occur typically involve people who have spent time in close contact with infected birds.

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“The outbreak continues in other jurisdictions,” ENR stated, “though with fall migration well under way, the risk to the NWT is receding slowly.”

The department said residents should still be aware of best practices and avoid handling dead wild birds or live birds “that are acting strangely.”

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