Avian Influenza

April 17, 2023

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease that can affect all species of birds. Infections in humans are rare.  Individuals who work closely with birds (e.g., live poultry markets, bird rehabilitation centres, animal sanctuaries, those who respond to avian flu outbreaks, etc.) are at higher risk of contracting this illness. According to the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the risk to the general public is low and there have not been known cases of the current virus being spread from human to human. In terms of transmission,  human infections are primarily acquired through direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environments, but do not result in efficient transmission of these viruses between people (Influenza (Avian and other zoonotic) (who.int). There is also no evidence to suggest that eating cooked poultry or eggs could transmit avian influenza to humans (Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)).

How it can be spread

Avian influenza is spread by direct contact between infected birds and healthy birds. It can also be spread when healthy birds come in contact with equipment or materials (including water and feed) that have been contaminated with feces or secretions from infected birds (TPH).


  • Individuals should observe wildlife, including birds, at a safe distance. Do not feed or interact with birds.
  • If you see a sick or dead wild bird on campus, do not touch it or go near it. Contact Facilities & Services at 416.978.3000 for the St. George campus, or your respective facilities department at UTM or UTSC.
  • Avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds. Report areas that are heavily contaminated with bird feces, for example, at or near operable window and entrances by calling 416.978.3000 or your respective facilities department at UTM or UTSC to request a clean-up. Do not open your window.
  • Wash hands and contact area(s) thoroughly with soap and water immediately if unavoidable contact with birds or their droppings occurs. Contaminated objects can be cleaned with water and detergent or a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 9 parts water). Employees who clean bird/animal droppings or roosting sites should continue to follow UofT’s Procedures for Cleaning Bird and Animal Urine, Feces and Nesting Areas.
  • Proper handling and cooking of poultry provides protection against all virus and bacteria (avian influenza, Salmonella and E. coli., etc.).
  • If you have questions or concerns, please contact EHS (ehs.office@utoronto.ca).

For the general public/at-home precautions, please refer to: Peel Region and Toronto Public Health.

For signs of avian influenza in birds, please refer to Toronto Public Health.

Reporting illness

Most avian influenza viruses do not cause disease in humans. However, there are some strains that can cause illness in humans and may range in severity from no symptoms or mild illness (TPH).

For an updated list of symptoms please refer to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care FAQs.

If you become ill with influenza symptoms within 10 days after handling wild birds or other wildlife, see your healthcare provider. Inform your healthcare provider that you have been in contact with wildlife. If you do not have access to a doctor, please call Health Connect Ontario at 811.

Additional Resources

Government of Canada: Fact Sheet – Avian Influenza