bird flu virus | Contagious in poultry, benign in humans

Since the first contaminated breeding of bird flu was detected on April 12 in Quebec, six more species have been added. The situation is worse elsewhere in Canada, where more than sixty outbreaks have been identified. Update on the current animal epidemic.

Posted at 8:00 AM

Judith LaChapelle

Judith LaChapelle

Where does this new strain of bird flu come from?

Warmer weather brings migratory birds that occasionally land with a few surprises in their bags… “Birds often carry a range of virus strains,” says Dr.s Yasmine Villeneuve, a medical consultant at the National Institute of Public Health in Quebec (INSPQ). Among those that primarily attack humans are the H1 and H3 strains, which usually circulate in winter. The H5N1 virus falls into another category. Highly contagious in poultry, some variants can kill 80% of the animals on the farm. It can also infect humans. Between 1996 and 2015, about half of the people who contracted H5N1 and then spread in Asia died. says Ds Villeneuve. In bird flu terminology, unlike COVID-19, the variants are called “clades” and have numbers instead of Greek letter names. The currently circulating H5N1 virus is thus ‘Cloud’. “And the analyzes showed that this variant, very different from what we saw in Asia, causes infection in birds, but appears to cause fewer infections in humans.”


The first human case was reported in Britain last December in a 79-year-old retiree who was raising ducks.

How is bird flu transmitted to humans?

Human cases of bird flu that have been reported in connection with the strain that is currently circulating are of concern to people who have been in contact with birds. The first case was reported in Britain last December of a 79-year-old retiree who raised ducks. At the end of April, the US health authorities announced the first case of infection of a slaughterhouse worker in Colorado. The affected person, for whom the only symptom of the disease was fatigue, was already cured after being treated with an antiviral drug. “The infection rate is very low, but we are keeping an eye on it,” says Dr.s Villeneuve. “As with COVID-19, when a mutation emerges and becomes more contagious, we want to see it come before it spreads. Flu vaccines have been developed, but none of them treat the variants that are currently circulating.” Because there are very, very few cases in humans, no I think the priority of the authorities is to develop a vaccine for that. To protect yourself from the virus, experts recommend paying attention to disinfection when direct contact with dead or live birds. Pour le consommateur de volaille ou d’œufs, pas de souci : les produits d’élevages contaminés sont détruits, et s’il faut bien faire cuire le poulet, c’est qu’il faut davantage crinderie salmonre la bqueact virus The common cold.

Karen Isabel Jean Baptiste photo, press archives

Egg and poultry production, unlike pork production, is governed by Supply Management in Canada.

Expected price increase?

If there are fewer poultry on the market due to the pandemic, should we expect an increase in egg and chicken prices? not nessacary. “Potential dangers related to animal epidemics can affect prices,” explains Bruno Laroux, professor in the Department of Agro-Food Economics at Laval University. In 2014, an epidemic of diarrhea in American pigs caused pork to rise also in Canada – the price of pork in Quebec was adjusted to that of the United States. “The prices fell when the US authorities realized that the problem was not as serious as had been expected,” Mr. LaRue recalls. In this case, the price of eggs in the United States could already be affected by the risks associated with bird flu. But egg and poultry production, unlike pork production, is subject to supply management in Canada. “Price is set according to production costs. In this case, it is the cost of food that drives up prices. To see if the price of eggs is going up in the grocery store, it is therefore better to look at what the hens eat…” As the price of grain has risen dramatically Sharp in recent weeks (corn and wheat in particular), the price of eggs. »


Dr.. Denis Arcambault, Professor of Biology at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM)

Vaccination of chickens, a possible solution?

In Canada, chicks are vaccinated against many diseases, including Marek’s disease (caused by a carcinogenic virus). But a vaccine against bird flu has not yet been approved. “The difficulty is, when developing a vaccine in chickens, the costs have to be very minimal, a few cents per dose. Otherwise, it’s not worth it,” says Professor of Biology Denis Arcambault, of the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM). Specifically on the development of a universal vaccine that protects poultry from several strains of bird flu.However, funding for its work stopped before the epidemic, the researcher regrets.In France, where health authorities began testing a vaccine on ducks, it is not expected to be able to vaccinate poultry on Wide range before winter 2023-2024.

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