Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

May 13th, 2022

Update on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) from Gyl Andersen, Manager of Wildlife Rehabilitation.

In light of the recent confirmed case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a poultry flock in the Comox Valley, we have made the incredibly difficult decision to temporarily close our Visitor Centre and gift shop as of Monday, May 16th. Our commitment to the safety and well-being of our resident ambassador birds (eagles, owls, and crows) and wildlife patients is our first priority, and we hope that this additional precautionary measure will help reduce the risk of on-site transmission of the virus. We plan to continue to educate and engage the public in a variety of ways, so stay tuned for updates!

The Wildlife Hospital remains open, but the temporary closure of our Visitor Centre will drastically reduce our funds at a time when they are most needed. It is Baby Season at MARS and the influx of injured and orphaned baby birds, raccoon kits, and other small mammals has begun. Our biggest expenses at this time of year are typically food and nursery supplies, but we also need to purchase additional personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to combat HPAI. We hope to be able to open our Visitor Centre to the public soon, but in the meantime we are calling on our supporters for help! Any contribution you can make to our animal care fund would be very much appreciated. If you can support us, please visit our Ways to Give page.

Updates to our HPAI
prevention protocols:

• We have increased biosecurity measures for the MARS site. This includes sanitizing footbaths, a separate patient admission building, quarantine zones for different species, and covering the Ambassador enclosures. Our infection control plan will be available on our website soon.

If you are bringing an injured wild animal to MARS, please remain in your vehicle. Call the hospital at 250-337-2021 ext. 0 to speak to rehab staff. The staff will come retrieve the patient from your vehicle.
• Do not bring deceased wild birds to MARS. Please call MARS at 250-337-2021 for guidance. You can also report suspicious bird deaths to the Bird Hotline: 1-866-431-BIRD (2473).
• We are currently unable to accept donations of poultry, waterfowl, or eggs as food for the animals.
• Please refer to the bottom of this page to see the clinical sigsn of HPAI.
We thank you for your understanding and support during this difficult time.

May 5th, 2022

BC is in the midst of an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

The virus has now been detected in several wild birds and domestic poultry in the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan. We believe it’s only a matter of time before it is detected on Vancouver Island.
MARS is taking steps to protect our patients and resident Ambassador birds, but we need your help:
• We are recommending the removal of backyard bird feeders and bird baths. The virus is shed in feces and respiratory secretions so removing bird feeders will help to reduce transmission in the general bird population. Hummingbird feeders are considered low risk at this time, so they can stay up as long as you are practicing good feeder hygiene.
If you are bringing an injured wild bird to MARS, please remain in your vehicle. Call the hospital at 250-337-2021 ext. 0 to speak to rehab staff. The staff will come retrieve the bird from your vehicle.
Do not bring deceased wild birds to MARS. Please call MARS at 250-337-2021 for guidance. You can also report suspicious bird deaths to the Bird Hotline: 1-866-431-BIRD (2473).
Keep an eye on bird health in your area. All species of birds are susceptible to HPAI, but raptors (eagles, owls, hawks) and corvids (crows, ravens, jays) are most likely to become severely sick and die from the virus.
• We are increasing our biosecurity measures to prevent transmission between new patients and existing patients or Ambassadors. The virus is spread through contact with fecal matter, respiratory secretions, and fomites such as shoes, clothing, equipment, and vehicles. Our infection control plan will be available on our website soon.
• We will be making some changes to our public tours, starting Friday May 20th. Please check our website for updates.

 

We expect to take a financial hit during this time. We will need to purchase more personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. We may also lose income from our Visitor Centre due to reduced tours. Please consider supporting us with a donation to our animal care fund.  Every little bit helps us to continue rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife!

Clinical Signs of HPAI

Clinical signs of HPAI include:
    • Sudden death
    • Diarrhea
    • Regurgitation
    • Sneezing
    • Unexplained emaciation
    • Lack of energy, movement, or appetite
    • Decreased egg production
    • Open sores
    • Discharge (clear or cloudy) from the mouth, nose, ears or vent
    • Extensive swelling and/or purple discolouration of the tissues of the head (including the conjunctiva)
    • Abnormal feathers: annular constrictions of the shaft, shaft haemorrhages, or retained waxy sheaths
    • Behavioural abnormalities: falling over, head tilt, head and neck twisting, circling, paralysis, seizures
    • Locomotion abnormalities: unable to stand or flap wings properly, yet with no traumatic injuries
    • Mass mortality or clusters of wild bird mortality (mortality unexpected considering the natural history of the species)
    • Some species may be infected and remain asymptomatic. Waterfowl, shorebirds, and aquatic birds are most likely to shed HPAI without showing signs of illness.