The U.S. is asking states to be ready with testing for avian flu. What is Canada doing?



As the United States calls for nationwide plans to quickly test and treat humans during an outbreak of bird flu, Canada says it has similar measures available to monitor and detect the virus.


Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease control issued a directive earlier this week for health officials across the country to prepare, with actions similar to what public health officials in Canada tell CTVNews.ca are being done here.


The warning south of the border followed the recent diagnosis of one person in the U.S. with avian influenza, also known as avian flu, H5N1 and bird flu, after contact with presumably infected cows.


Multiple U.S. agencies issued a joint news release last month about cases of H5N1 spreading among dairy cattle throughout the United States, including Idaho and Michigan, two U.S. states on the border with Canada.


There have been no reports of humans ever catching the virus from sources within Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), though a single fatal case was reported 10 years ago in an individual who had travelled to China.


PHAC told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday that officials in Canada have similar plans as their U.S. counterparts to address any transmission and spread of the virus to humans.


It says its National Microbiology Laboratory can rapidly test and detect human cases of bird flu – a type of testing American health teams were asked to prepare for earlier this week.


“PHAC has established a surveillance system for emerging respiratory diseases which, in collaboration with jurisdictions, allows for the detection and monitoring of individuals occupationally exposed,” Anna Maddison, spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca.


Maddison said PHAC has “several products” available to monitor illnesses including bird flu, and that this surveillance is conducted with help from provincial and territorial public health teams.


Although the risk of avian influenza infecting people in Canada is low, PHAC officials say, Canadians should avoid contact with any live or dead wildlife.


People who may be regularly exposed to infected animals, such as farm workers, veterinarians, hunters and wildlife workers, should wear proper personal protective equipment and practice good hand hygiene, Maddison said.


Earlier this week, CTVNews.ca asked experts whether Canadians need to be worried about transmission through their food, following a warning from some states not to consume runny egg yolks.


The director of an infectious disease research centre said there’s no cause for concern related to avian flu, calling Canada’s agricultural surveillance “excellent.”


With files from CTV News’ Hunter Crowther and Kendra Mangione


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