General notice

H5N1 virus reported in Québec

Learn more about the current situation, the measures in place and how to safely dispose of wild bird carcasses on our Surveillance and control of avian influenza page. Report sick or dead wild birds by calling 1 877-346‑6763.

Warning notice

Notice to owners of farmed birds

Carefully monitor the health of your birds. In the event of unusual mortality or other signs of illness, see a veterinarian. If you are unable to find a veterinarian, call the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s sick bird reporting line at 450-768-6763 or the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec’s reporting line at 1 844 ANIMAUX (264-6289).

See the Notice to owners of farmed birds (PDF 220 Kb) for more information. Strictly follow the prevention and biosecurity measures recommended in the notice, and post it in the henhouse.

Gatherings of birds
Health officials currently recommend against organized gatherings of birds (fairs, trade shows, contests, auctions, etc.) in order to reduce the risk of contamination.


Avian influenza (also known as avian flu or bird flu) is a disease that affects birds and is caused by the type A influenzavirus. The virus can cause severe symptoms and even high death rates on poultry farms. Its spread could have a devastating effect on farming businesses.

Avian flu is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be transmitted between animals and humans. However, human cases are rare.

Avian influenza, specifically the H5 and H7 subtypes, is a notifiable disease.

Animals at risk

All species of birds are at risk of infection, with poultry, like chickens and turkeys, having the highest rates of infection.

Wild birds often show no signs of the disease, and the number of deaths is generally low. Ducks, geese, gulls and other waterbirds can maintain the virus in their populations and spread it undetected. However, some species may be more sensitive and subject to greater mortality. In Québec, increased mortality has been observed in gannets, common eiders, great black-backed gulls, red-headed urubus and birds of prey.

There have been reported cases of the virus being transmitted from birds to wild animals (foxes, skunks, raccoons, bears, seals), pets (dogs, cats, ferrets) and livestock (mink, pigs, cattle, goats).

General notice

Avian influenza and livestock

Livestock owners are encouraged to visit our Surveillance and control of avian influenza page for more up-to-date information on detecting the virus in dairy cows.

Avian influenza and pets 
If you are a cat or dog owner, please visit Pets and highly pathogenic strain H5N1 Avian Influenza This hyperlink will open in a new window. to learn more about the subject.

In general, keep your pets away from sick or dead wild animals. If you live in an area with high bird mortality, there are special measures you should take.

Signs of the disease in animals

In most cases, avian flu is a low pathogenic virus and birds exhibit few to no signs of the disease. Highly pathogenic avian influenza is less common and leads to severe symptoms and a high mortality rate.

The following symptoms can be observed in birds infected with avian flu:

  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decreased egg production or soft-shelled or shell-less eggs
  • Swollen head, eyelids, comb, wattles and shanks
  • Respiratory symptoms like coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge
  • Nervous symptoms like an abnormal gait, tremors and twisted necks
  • Diarrhea
  • Sudden death

Transmission and incubation period

Bird flu is transmitted directly from one bird to another through secretions or feces. Infected birds are contagious for long periods of time, even if they show no sign of disease.

The virus is introduced into a flock when contaminated wild birds, humans or equipment enter into contact with domesticated birds or their environment. For example, the virus can be found in bird feed or water or even on contaminated vehicle wheels, boots or hands.

The incubation period is 2 to 14 days.


There is no known treatment for bird flu.

Protection and prevention

Several biosecurity measures are recommended to reduce the risk of spreading the disease among domesticated flocks. Certain other measures are required for all poultry owners. Authorities may issue more stringent measures depending on the infection risk for flocks in Québec.

Avoid contact with wild birds

Avian flu is primarily carried and transmitted by wild birds. To prevent them from interacting with your animals, abide by the regulations for housing captive birds (in French only).

Other measures are also recommended to prevent direct or indirect transmission of the virus between wild birds and farmed birds.

Your flock should be kept far from any area where wild birds might gather, such as wetlands visited by migratory birds.

If possible, keep your birds indoors. If they need access to an enclosure outdoors, you can cover it in netting to keep wild birds out.

Food and bodies of water, standing or otherwise, can attract wild birds to your property. If your birds need access to water, it is essential to install netting to prevent wild birds from landing there.

Farming materials and equipment, like tractors, shovels and straw, should also be kept out of reach of wild birds. Make sure that they are not contaminated with droppings.

You should also limit your own contact with wild birds. For example, try to avoid going hunting. If you must hunt, be sure to take strong biosecurity measures.

Apply biosecurity measures on your farm

Follow a rigourous biosecurity protocol at all times and train your farm staff in biosecurity and disease prevention.

Before entering the henhouse or visiting the birds, put on clean clothes, wash or change your boots and then wash your hands.

As much as possible, you should limit any contact between commercial poultry and backyard poultry. Poultry farm staff and owners should not visit other farms, nor should they share farm equipment with other bird owners. If you must share equipment, clean and disinfect it before bringing it to your farm and change your clothes and boots between visits.

It is important to practice good vermin and pest control on your farm and avoid attracting scavengers. Food and bird carcasses must be kept out of reach of scavengers. Manure should also be stored as far as possible from farm buildings.

Introducing new birds without first establishing a clean bill of health is not advisable. Keep a single age group of birds per farm building and different species separate from each other. After a group leaves, remove any organic waste and clean and disinfect the space before bringing in a new group.

To learn more, visit the Équipe québécoise de contrôle des maladies avicoles This hyperlink will open in a new window. website (in French only).

Restrict access to your flocks

To mitigage risks, require all farm staff and visitors to wear clean clothes and boots and to wash their hands before entering poultry barns or visiting your birds.

Control the number of visitors in each building and make sure they comply with the recommended biosecurity This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French only) measures. The public should not come in direct contact with poultry. Access to flocks should be forbidden to unauthorized individuals and enforced with locks and signs.

It is also recommended to clean and disinfect motor vehicles before allowing them into stock-raising areas.

Promptly identify sick birds

Pay close attention to the health of the domesticated and wild birds in your area. Report any sign of illness to the appropriate authorities. Visit the Surveillance and control of avian influenza webpage to learn more.

General notice

Small or backyard flocks

See our guidelines for owners of small poultry flocks This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French only).

Consider posting this infographic about basic rules to protect your flock from avian influenza in your henhouse: Keep your birds safe This hyperlink will open in a new window. – Government of Canada.

In humans

Avian influenza rarely spreads from birds to humans. When it does, it often affects workers who have close contact with infected poultry in confined spaces, like farms, slaughterhouses and live poultry markets. No sustained person-to-person spread has been observed.

In Québec, surveillance of avian flu and commercialization of poultry products has helped to efficiently manage risks to human health. No cases of bird-to-human disease transmission has been observed in Canada.

Avian flu symptoms in humans usually resemble those of the seasonal flu.

In rare cases of the H5N1 strain, gastro-intestinal symptoms, like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, may occur. Severe illnesses, like pneumonia and respiratory failure, have also been reported.

Warning notice

In case of bird flu-like symptoms

Any person who has been exposed to sick or dead birds and is exhibiting symptoms of avian influenza must contact Info-Santé (811) and inform the operator of their exposure.

Prevent bird-to-human transmission

It is important to wash your hands with soap and hot water after any contact with a bird. If you are unable to, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub.

Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts

In general, avoid contact with wild animals and their carcasses.

You should also avoid feeding waterfowl, as they often gather in large groups conducive to spreading the disease. Learn more about best practices for feeding wild birds This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French only).

If you are a hunter, please follow the Government of Canada’s guidelines for reducing the risk of bird flu exposure, found on the Wildlife and avian influenza This hyperlink will open in a new window. page of their website.

Additionally, anyone who handles or prepares carcasses should follow our guidelines for wild game meat (in French only). Do not feed your pets raw wild game meat or offal.

Poultry farm owners and workers

Measures taken to protect farmed birds from bird flu also help to reduce the risk of bird-to-human transmission. Proper personal protection measures include wearing clean clothes and boots on the farm, as well as changing them and then washing your hands after leaving a building. If you have a wound on your hand, bandage it and wear gloves while on the farm.

When a potential case of avian influenza is reported in domesticated birds, animal and public health officials will work together to support the owner. Additional personal protection measures may be recommended to workers or other individuals who come in close contact with the infected birds, like wearing disposable protective equipment (boots, coveralls, head covers and gloves), safety goggles and an N95 mask.

Wildlife workers

Workers who come in close contact with wild birds or other susceptible wildlife and managers of wildlife rehabilitation centres are invited to follow the relevant guidelines This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Food safety

There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted to humans through properly prepared and cooked poultry, eggs, game or other food items. Continue to follow standard guidelines to prevent food poisoning.

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Last update: May 13, 2024


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