Dog in Canada dies of H5N1 bird flu
A dog in the Canadian province of Ontario has died of H5N1 bird flu after coming into contact with wild birds, health officials say. It is believed to be the first time a dog has tested positive for the new type of virus.
A statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada said a dog in Oshawa, a city in Ontario, tested positive for bird flu after chewing on a dead goose. The dog developed clinical signs of bird flu and died a few days later.
“Both the dog and the goose were tested for H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus and both were positive,” said Dr. Scott Weese, Director of the Center for Public Health and Zoonoses at the University of Guelph.
“The virus was sequenced at the National Center for Exotic Animal Diseases and the virus from the dog and the goose were the same and were consistent with the H5N1 strain that circulates in wild birds and domestic fowl,” he said.
It is believed to be the first time a dog has been infected with the new strain of H5N1, which emerged in late 2021. In 2004, a dog in Thailand died from an earlier strain of H5N1 after eating a duck that was infected with a virus.
In December, a cat on a poultry farm in southern France also tested positive for the new strain of H5N1. The cat became ill and was euthanized on December 23rd.
“Based on current evidence in Canada, the risk to the general public remains low and current scientific evidence suggests that the risk of a human being infected with bird flu from a pet is small,” the government said in a statement.
However, pet owners have been advised not to feed live game meat or poultry to pets – such as dogs and cats – and not to let them eat or play with wild birds.
Dr. Weese called the case “disturbing but not surprising” and “not a doomsday scenario.”
“It’s worrying because any spread to mammals raises concerns about the ongoing adaptation of this virus to spread outside of birds,” he said. “It’s not surprising because when you have millions of birds infected internationally, it’s inevitable that domestic and wild mammals will be exposed.”
A wide range of animals in Canada have tested positive for bird flu over the past year, including foxes, seals, dolphins, black bears, wild mink, pigs and skunks, according to the National Center for Exotic Animal Diseases.
The global spread of H5N1 clade 220.127.116.11b – and recent spread to an increasing number of mammals – has raised concern about the possibility of a future variant that could lead to human-to-human transmission. So far, only a few human cases have been found after contact with infected birds.
“The global H5N1 situation is worrisome given the widespread spread of the virus in birds worldwide and increasing reports of cases in mammals, including humans,” said Dr. Sylvie Briand, a WHO official, on 24 February. “The WHO takes the risk from this virus seriously and requires increased vigilance from all countries.”
Last week, Chile reported that more than 1,500 sea lions are believed to have died from H5N1 bird flu, which followed the deaths of at least 3,500 sea lions in neighboring Peru. Chile also reported its first human case of bird flu on March 29.