Avian Influenza: What You Need to Know

Public Service Announcement

Yellowknife — May 4, 2022

A strain of avian influenza that is highly contagious among birds is currently spreading from the United States into southern Canada.

Also known as ‘bird flu,’ avian influenza is a respiratory disease which naturally occurs in wild birds throughout the world. It is common for migratory waterfowl such as ducks, gulls, geese, and shorebirds to carry and spread these viruses.

Currently, transmission from birds to humans is rare and cases in humans have been relatively mild in nature. There is no evidence to suggest that the consumption of cooked poultry or eggs could transmit avian influenza to humans.

It is considered safe to hunt, handle, and eat healthy wild birds in the NWT.

The following precautions are important when hunting or handling birds.

Wild birds

  • Wear gloves when handling birds you’ve harvested.
  • Process harvested birds in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wash your hands and disinfect your equipment when you’re done.
  • Cook your meat to the recommended temperatures (to an internal temperature of at least 165 °F/74 °C).
  • Never touch birds or other wildlife that appear sick or are found dead. 
  • Report any sick or dead birds immediately to your regional Environment and Natural Resources office.

Symptoms of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in wild birds may include:

  • Unusual behaviour, tremors, or lack of coordination
  • Swelling around the head, neck, and eyes
  • Lack of energy or movement
  • Coughing, difficulty breathing, or sneezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Sudden death

Birds kept for agricultural purposes

  • Prevent contact of domestic birds (including their food and water) with wild birds and other animals.
  • Limit exposure of domestic birds to visitors.
  • Clean your clothing and footwear, coops, waterers, and feeders regularly.
  • Limit distribution of live birds, eggs, and other bird products outside of your household.
  • If any of your birds begin showing signs of illness, call your veterinarian for an assessment.
  • If you suspect a bird in your flock is positive for avian flu, contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency by calling +1 403-338-5225.
  • If you must handle sick poultry, wear protective gear, and wash your hands with soap and water. Wash any clothes before contact with healthy domestic poultry.

Symptoms of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in domestic birds may include:

  • A drop in production of eggs, many of which are soft-shelled or shell-less
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhages on the hock
  • High and sudden mortality rate
  • Quietness and extreme depression
  • Swelling of the skin under the eyes
  • Wattles and combs become swollen and congested

Precautions for you

  • Never touch wild or domestic birds that appear sick or are found dead. Observe healthy birds from a distance. 
  • If you are hunting wild birds, wear gloves and wash hands frequently while dressing them.
  • Disinfect any surfaces and equipment that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous, or feces from wild or domestic birds.
  • Clean with hot, soapy water and then use a household disinfectant. 
  • Wash any contaminated clothes right away.

Symptoms of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in humans may include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • nasal congestion
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • joint aches
  • headache
  • eye redness
  • weakness
  • muscle aches

Rare symptoms may include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • seizures

If you develop symptoms and may have been exposed

If you are experiencing any symptoms, and have been in contact with wild birds or domestic birds showing signs of illness, contact your local health centre for assessment and advise them of your bird exposure.

Wear a mask when around others, use healthy respiratory practices, and perform frequent hand hygiene until further guidance is provided from a health care professional.

Resources on avian flu

For questions

For questions related to Avian Influenza and wild birds in the territories, you can contact Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment & Climate Change Canada) at cwsnorth-scfnord@ec.gc.ca


For media requests, please contact:

Migratory bird health and avian flu surveillance

Canadian Wildlife Service

Government of Canada


Wildlife health

Jessica Davey-Quantick

Communications Planning Specialist

Environment and Natural Resources

Government of the Northwest Territories


Human health

Jeremy Bird

Manager, Communications

Health and Social Services

Government of the Northwest Territories