Here’s what to know about bird flu in Quebec

As bird flu spreads across the United States, infecting poultry flocks and now dairy cattle herds, Canadian authorities say they are keeping a close eye on the situation.Although Quebec has yet to record any cases in cattle, more than 50 chicken farms have already been hit with outbreaks.And while health officials say the risk to the general public remains low, there are concerns about the virus developing into a far greater threat.What’s known as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), or H5N1 bird flu, was first detected in waterfowl in China in 1996.

Outbreaks have occurred throughout the years ever since, but the one making headlines now began in late 2021 when a new H5N1 virus was detected in wild birds across North America.Though primarily found in wild birds and poultry farms, the disease also spreads to mammals, including foxes, raccoons, cats, dogs and other animals that might scavenge infected bird carcasses.An unprecedented outbreak in dairy cow herds has also now spread to nine U.S. states.The virus can infect humans, though it remains rare. According to health authorities, those most at risk are people in close contact with infected birds or those who work in poultry farms or live bird markets.Symptoms in humans can range from mild to deadly and often start with a cough, shortness of breath and fever.

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