Nova Scotia officials announced today, June 26, plans to watch for wild birds potentially carrying various forms of avian influenza. This year, in addition to the province’s normal surveillance of diseased wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources will collect clusters of dead or sick birds, in particular waterbirds. “In our efforts to enhance the monitoring and surveillance for infectious diseases, we will be testing for avian influenza in wild birds, similar to the testing program we have carried out for West Nile virus,” said Barry Sabean, director of wildlife, Department of Natural Resources. “Any tool we have to detect disease in the province, the better prepared we are to deal with them.” Avian influenza is a viral infection that can spread easily and quickly among birds. There are at least 15 types of avian influenza. Some wild bird species, such as ducks, can carry the virus and infect other birds without getting sick themselves. Other bird species are more likely to become severely ill and die when infected with some types of avian influenza. “Birds naturally carry influenza viruses and have for many years,” said Dr. Ann Roberts, medical officer of health, Department of Health Promotion and Protection. “From a human health perspective, regardless of what specific form of virus we may find in our testing, there is no reason to believe that the health risk to humans has changed from what it has been in the past.” As a general guideline, the public should avoid handling live or dead birds. Local offices of the Department of Natural Resources should be contacted if the public sees sick or dead birds. Evenings or weekends people can call, 1-800-565-2224. The birds which meet testing criteria will be collected and sent to the lab at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown. For more information on avian influenza go to www.gov.ns.ca/health .