OTTAWA, Ontario – Canada's seventh annual Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey is underway as wild birds begin their fall migration. This survey is part of a global effort advocated by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to detect highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses that may threaten the agricultural sector and human health.

"The wild bird survey is an important part of Canada's avian influenza prevention and preparedness biosecurity strategy," said Brian Evans, Ph.D., Canada's chief veterinary officer. "It's an early-warning system designed to detect highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses such as the Eurasian strain of H5N1. To date, this highly pathogenic H5N1 strain has never been found in Canada."

The OIE and the FAO noted the emergence of a new strain of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus earlier this week. Although the OIE said the genetic mutation is not an immediate cause for alert, both groups recommended sustained monitoring of avian influenza viruses.

Should the survey detect a highly pathogenic virus in wild birds, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) would alert producers in the area and conduct heightened surveillance in domestic poultry. The CFIA routinely monitors for avian influenza viruses in commercial flocks.