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Short Communication

Avian influenza prevalence among hunter-harvested birds in a remote Canadian First Nation community

Submitted: 6 January 2016
Revised: 2 October 2016
Accepted: 31 October 2016
Published: 11 January 2017

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Author(s) : Liberda EN, Meldrum R, Charania NA, Davey R, Tsuji LJS.

Citation: Liberda EN, Meldrum R, Charania NA, Davey R, Tsuji LJS.  Avian influenza prevalence among hunter-harvested birds in a remote Canadian First Nation community. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2017; 17: 3864. Available: (Accessed 24 October 2017). DOI:


Introduction:  Avian influenza virus (AIV) prevalence has been associated with wild game and other bird species. The contamination of these birds may pose a greater risk to those who regularly hunt and consumed infected species. Due to resident concerns communicated by local Band Council, hunter-harvested birds from a remote First Nation community in subArctic Ontario, Canada were assessed for AIV. Hunters, and especially those who live a subsistence lifestyle, are at higher risk of AIV exposure due to their increased contact with wild birds, which represent an important part of their diet.
Methods:  Cloacal swabs from 304 harvested game birds representing several species of wild birds commonly hunted and consumed in this First Nation community were analyzed for AIV using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Subtyping was performed using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Sequences were assembled using Lasergene, and the sequences were compared to Genbank.
Results:  In total, 16 of the 304 cloacal swab samples were positive for AIV. Of the 16 positive samples, 12 were found in mallard ducks, 3 were found in snow geese (wavies), and 1 positive sample was found in partridge. The AIV samples were subtyped, when possible, and found to be positive for the low pathogenic avian influenza virus subtypes H3 and H4. No samples were positive for subtypes of human concern, namely H5 and H7.
Conclusions:  This work represents the first AIV monitoring program results of hunter-harvested birds in a remote subsistence First Nation community. Community-level surveillance of AIV in remote subsistence hunting communities may help to identify future risks, while educating those who may have the highest exposure about proper handling of hunted birds. Ultimately, only low pathogenic strains of AIV were found, but monitoring should be continued and expanded to safeguard those with the highest exposure risk to AIV.

Key words: Aboriginal, avian influenza, birds, Canada, First Nation, Indigenous.

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