Herring gull. In Helsinki, no cases of avian influenza have been detected so far this year. Picture: Tomi Muukkonen

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"Avian influenza outbreaks have caused multiple seagull mass deaths in Finland. While Helsinki has not reported any cases of avian influenza this year so far, measures are being taken to restrict outdoor keeping of poultry and pet birds as a preventive measure,” reports a press release from the Environmental Department of the city of Helsinki.

Protecting Poultry and Pet Birds from Avian Influenza Transmission

To prevent the spread of avian influenza virus, it is essential to protect domestic poultry and pet birds from coming into contact with wild birds. Poultry keepers are urged to closely follow updates from the Finnish Food Authority regarding the avian influenza situation.

Helsinki's Poultry Keeping Facilities

In the Helsinki area, poultry keeping facilities are primarily small-scale hobby or household-based chicken coops, and most of them have birds only during the summer months. There are no large commercial broiler or turkey farms or large egg-laying facilities in Helsinki.

Birds must be kept either indoors or their outdoor areas should be adequately covered with mesh to prevent direct or indirect contact between domestic poultry and wild birds. This measure aims to reduce the risk of transmission since wild birds may carry the avian influenza virus.

How the Virus Spreads

The virus can spread from wild birds to domestic poultry if the birds come into direct or indirect contact with each other. However, these protection measures do not apply to free-flying pigeons, zoos, and permanent animal exhibitions.

Birds spread the disease through their feces and secretions. Therefore, individuals must change their footwear and clothing and wash their hands thoroughly before entering chicken coops.

Low Risk of Human or Pet Infection

The current H5N1 type of avian influenza virus poses a very low risk of infection to humans. Avian influenza viruses have limited ability to infect humans, and transmission usually requires close contact with an infected wild bird or domestic poultry and their secretions.

Avian influenza does not spread to humans through food items such as eggs and poultry meat, provided proper cooking and heat treatment are employed.

Regarding pets, there have been rare cases of avian influenza transmission to cats, dogs, and other mammalian pets. It is advisable to avoid allowing cats and dogs to roam freely and unsupervised outdoors to minimize their contact with dead wild birds.

Reporting Bird Mass Deaths to Animal Health Authorities

If avian influenza-like symptoms are observed in domestic poultry or if mass bird deaths occur in the Helsinki area, it is crucial to report these incidents to Helsinki City's supervisory veterinarian during office hours.

Reports can be sent via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through the feedback form. Outside office hours, such incidents can be reported to the fire department or the on-duty regional veterinarian.

A mass death event is defined as the death of five or more swans or waterfowl or ten or more other birds.

Avoid Handling Dead Birds Without Protective Gear

Individuals should refrain from touching dead birds without wearing protective gloves. Reporting isolated cases of dead birds to the authorities is not necessary.

Taking preventive measures to protect domestic poultry and pet birds from avian influenza is crucial to minimize the risk of outbreaks and potential transmission to humans. By following the guidelines and promptly reporting any suspicious incidents, we can collectively safeguard the health of our avian friends and the broader community.

HT

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