DISPOSAL GUIDELINES FOR AVIAN INFLUENZA SUSPECTED WILD BIRD CARCASSES
Department of Fisheries, Forestry & Agriculture
Highly Pathogenic Avian influenza (HPAI), commonly known as “bird flu” is a contagious viral infection that can cause sickness and mortality in domestic and wild birds. The infection can also affect other animals, in particular scavengers such as eagles, foxes, or even pets, are vulnerable to infection from consuming dead or sick birds.
While rare, avian influenza in humans is mainly caused by contact with:
- infected chickens or other birds,
- manure and litter having high concentrations of avian virus,
- contaminated surfaces,
- contaminated vehicles, equipment, clothing and footwear at farms where there are infected birds, and
- infected birds when being de-feathered and prepared for sale.
The virus does not spread easily from birds to humans, or from human to human. However, there have been very rare cases when the avian virus has spread from bird to human and one ill person to another, but the transmission has not been observed to go beyond one person.
Carcass disposal considerations for wild birds during an Avian Influenza Outbreak in Canada
The information provided does not apply to domestic birds. For sick or dead domestic birds, the guidelines provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) must be adhered to. Please see “If you think your birds are infected” at the following link for more information: Protect your flock from bird flu – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)
It is important to note that not all carcass disposal options will destroy viral agents and/or prevent scavenging of carcasses that are suspected of being infected with HPAI. The wild bird carcass disposal options are presented in order of from those most likely to destroy HPAI to those least likely to destroy HPAI and/or prevent scavenging of carcasses.
For human health safety considerations for handling dead wild bird carcasses see the following Public Health Agency of Canada guidance (copied below in italics): Wild birds and avian influenza – Handling guidelines – Canada.ca
If possible birds should not be handled directly. However, if contact with wild birds is unavoidable, wear gloves or use a double plastic bag and avoid contact with blood, body fluids and feces. You should then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
The following considerations are also important for anyone who may be disposing of carcasses of wild migratory birds:
- Keep young children and pets away from carcasses.
- After carcass disposal, thoroughly clean and disinfect tools (e.g., shovel) with hot, soapy water and then use a household disinfectant.
- Wash hands with soap and warm water immediately after you have finished. If you do not have access to water, use hand sanitizer or wipe hands with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Disposal Options for Mortality Events
A note on disposal locations – Where possible carcass disposal should occur on or near the collection site. Transportation from the collection site increases the risk of disease spread to poultry farms and the safety risk for increased handling. See the section below on Transport to a Disposal Site for guidance if transportation is the only option.
- Incineration (burn above or below ground) (Preferred)
- Where required, must possess a municipal or provincial burn permit. Must follow municipal or provincial burn permit regulations.
- In rural areas where no laws or bylaws prevent it, carcasses may be burned along with other disposed items in waste pits or burn barrels.
- Important to keep fire contained and monitored and that carcass(es) is/are completely burnt.
- Whenever possible bury carcass(es) at least 1m deep to prevent animals from digging up carcass. Single birds may be buried at least 20 cm deep.
- If available, sprinkle carcass with hydrated lime to deter scavengers.
- Burial must not occur within 2.5 km of any local water supply.
- For burials of more than five birds please contact Pollution Prevention Division for guidance 709 729-7012.
- Waste Disposal Site (where carcass disposal is permitted –check for local restrictions with municipal or provincial authorities)
- See retrieval of carcasses and disposal of carcasses section below.
- Carcasses may be disposed at an approved waste disposal site, see
https://www.gov.nl.ca/ecc/env-protection/waste/certificates/ for more information. For information on other potential disposal sites please contact your local Digital Government and ServiceNL office for locations. https://www.gov.nl.ca/dgsnl/department/contact/#locations
- Follow guidance outlined in Transport to a Disposal Site section below.
- Leave it on the landscape (Last Resort)
- In instances where the above options for disposal are not possible, carcasses can be left on the landscape. This may be appropriate for small numbers of birds in remote locations.
The public is encouraged to report any cases of wild bird disposal to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative through the online reporting portal or by calling 709-685-7273 or 1- 800-567-2033.
Sick or dying birds should be reported to Fisheries, Forestry, and Agriculture at 1 (709) 729-4180. Members of the public should avoid handling or interacting with sick or dying birds.
To reduce their risk of HPAI H5 virus infection, workers or volunteers handling larger volumes of carcasses should do all of the following:
- Avoid unprotected direct physical contact with sick birds, carcasses, and feces or litter.
- Wear recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) when in direct contact with birds, carcasses, and feces or litter.
- Recommended PPE includes: safety glasses/goggles, disposable gloves, boots, a NIOSH-certified respirator (e.g., N95), and coveralls (disposable or disinfected and washed separate from regular laundry using standard cleaning protocols.
- Persons handling carcasses should be fit-tested and trained on the use of N95 respirators. Training topics should include all of the following:
- Proper fit-testing, wearing and use of respirators;
- Be familiar with safe removal of respirators;
- Be familiar with safe disposal of disposable respirators or cleaning and disinfection of reusable respirators;
- Reusable PPE (e.g. rubber boots, rubber apron) should be:
- Cleaned until visible dirt is removed, and then
- Disinfected with an approved disinfectant that has label claims against influenza A viruses according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Workers or volunteers must demonstrate an understanding of when to use PPE; what PPE is necessary; how to properly put on, use, take off, properly dispose of, and maintain PPE; and the limitations of PPE.
- Avoid touching the eyes, mouth, and nose after touching any contaminated material while wearing PPE.
- Do not eat, drink, smoke, or use the bathroom while wearing PPE.
- Perform good hand hygiene such as hand-washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub after removing PPE if soap and water are not immediately available.
- Shower at the end of the work shift and leave all contaminated clothing and equipment at work. Never wear contaminated clothing or equipment outside the work area.
- Any persons handling bird species suspected of having Avian Influenza (AI) must be follow recommended safe work practices at all time when in contact with bird species and applicable PPE must be worn during any collection, handling, or transportation of AI suspected carcasses
Recommended PPE and Other Equipment
- Eye protection – CSA approved safety glasses or goggles as per CAN/CSA Z94.3 “Industrial Eye and Face Protectors
- Respirator (N-95) or double mask using two medical masks having an ASTM rating of Level 1 or greater
- Protective barrier gloves (e.g. disposable plastic, nitrile, cut-resistant or rubber gloves) appropriate for type of birds handled/collected
- Consider heavier-duty gloves (e.g., thick leather, cut-resistant, or heavier plastic gloves), when handling birds that can pierce skin with beak or claws
- Safety Footwear – CSA approved appropriate for field and weather conditions as per CAN/CSA-Z195, Protective Footwear, and CAN/CSA-Z195.1, Guideline on Selection, Care and Use of Protective Footwear Rubber boots or disposable boot covers may be appropriate.
- Reflective Safety Clothing – CSA Standard Z96-15 High-Visibility Safety Apparel
- First Aid Kit
- Communication Device (cell/satellite phone, radio, SPOT unit)
- Dedicated field clothing or outer garments (e.g., coveralls impervious to water), used exclusively in
- Suitable head protection (e.g. ball cap or field hat with brim)
- Eye wash
- Hand sanitizer (minimum 60% alcohol)
- Clear plastic bags
- Disinfectant containing at least 2% Virkon OR minimum 60% alcohol
- Plastic transport containers of sufficient size to contain the bagged specimen.
- Must be a container with covered lid that should not be used for any purpose other than AI specimen collection.
- Must be disinfected after each use
Retrieval of carcasses and disposal of carcasses.
- When collecting a deceased bird, it is to be triple-bagged, with each bag individually sprayed with a disinfectant (containing or 2% Virkon (preferred) or minimum 60% alcohol). For example:
- Place specimen in first bag, seal the bag, spray the exterior of the bag
- Place specimen into a second bag, seal the bag, spray the exterior of the bag
- Place specimen into a third bag, seal the bag, spray the exterior of the bag
- Place the specimen in a plastic container that can be stored in the pan of a truck. Spray the exterior of the container including the lid, (paying particular attention to surfaces that you handled or that came into contact with the bagged specimen) with a disinfectant (containing 2% Virkon (preferred) or minimum 60% alcohol).
Sequence for Wearing PPE
- Rubber boots if not already worn;
- Apron, if worn;
- Perform hand hygiene – Wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer containing minimum 60% alcohol;
- Safety glasses/goggles;
- Hearing protection.
- Safely remove PPE in sequence:
- Remove and dispose of the apron, if worn;
- Clean and disinfect boots;
- Remove boots;
- Remove and dispose of the coverall;
- Remove and dispose of gloves;
- Perform hand hygiene – Wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer containing
minimum 60% alcohol;
- Remove goggles, respirator and hearing protection (dispose of
- Clean and disinfect reusable goggles, respirator (if of the reusable type);
- Perform hand hygiene – Wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer containing minimum 60% alcohol.
- Items used in during the collection of the bird such as gloves, masks, etc. should be bagged for disposal and any associated equipment/clothing sprayed with disinfectant as noted above.
- Perform hand hygiene before entry into a vehicle or other buildings
- Remove and dispose of gloves
- Perform hand hygiene
- Remove safety glasses
Transport to a Waste Disposal Site
- Transportation of dead birds should be avoided where possible. Where transportation is required the route should avoid all farm areas by 10 km or more. The following areas and nearby road routes, are import for poultry farming in Newfoundland and should be avoided when transporting carcasses: Northern Pond Rd- Cochrane Pond, Route 60 – Harbour Main, Whitbourne, Ocean Pond, Roaches Line, Goose Arm Rd – Deer Lake, Veteran’s Drive – Cormack, and Lewisporte.
- Specimens collected and placed in bags and a plastic container and should be placed in the pan of a truck when transporting to an approved waste disposal site.
- Upon arrival, contact should be made with the waste disposal management company.
- Carcasses in low volumes that are collected and able to fit in covered containers can be transported using a regular open-bed truck.
- Large volume carcass collection that are unable to be contained in enclosed containers must be bagged and transported in an enclosed vehicle with a cap, or, commercial vehicle such as U-Haul. When transporting in this method, the following conditions will apply:
- Tarps will be laid down to line the vehicle bed to minimize fluid exposure
- All efforts should be made to take transportation routes that avoid commercial farms (containing poultry, etc). Consult with Animal Health Division.
- Once unloaded, vehicle should be cleaned thoroughly, sprayed with disinfectant (containing minimal 60% alcohol or 2% Virkon), and allowed to sit at least ten minutes after cleaning and spraying is complete.
- Used tarps should be sprayed with disinfectant, double-bagged, and either incinerated or disposed of at a professional landfill
- Carcasses may be transported to a pre-determined waste disposal site provided that a pre-dug trench is prepared and burial is coordinated with the site operator and completed immediately, coordination with disposal site operator/company is essential.
- Once on site, workers or volunteers must don and doff PPE using the correct sequence before
removing from vehicle.
- Equipment operator must use PPE (applicable to AI SWP) unless fully enclosed within tractor cab at all times.
- Trench/hole has to be at least one metre depth.
- Carcasses have to be removed from bags at time of burial.
- Lime applied once 400mm of soil is placed on top of carcass(es). Further soil applied thereafter.
- Contaminated bags should be sprayed with disinfectant, double-bagged, and either incinerated or disposed of at a professional landfill.
- Carcasses can be transported to a commercial landfill site IF they permit carcass disposal. In this case, the carcass should remain bagged and only handled by the collector until burial equipment completes task.
- Any landfill site employee equipment operator must wear Personal Protective Equipment unless working from a fully enclosed cab of the burial equipment.
Disinfect Containers, Equipment and Vehicle
- Wear appropriate PPE for the task.
- Disinfect all equipment immediately after carcasses have been disposed of.
- Disinfect any exposed surfaces using a disinfectant containing 2% Virkon (preferred) or minimum 60% alcohol.
Hand Hygiene – Running Water + Soap
When running water is available, wash your hands with plain soap and water and dry thoroughly. Follow these steps for perfectly clean hands:
- Remove jewelry such as rings
- Wet hands up to the wrists
- Apply enough soap to cover hands
- Work soap under fingernails and around and between joints and fingers for a minimum of 20 seconds
- Rinse off all lather with water
- Dry hands with a clean cloth or paper towel – take special care to dry thoroughly between fingers
- Turn off the tap with a paper towel or cloth
Hand Hygiene – Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
If you do not have access to water, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Place enough alcohol-based hand rub into the cupped palm of one hand sufficient to wet both hands completely
- Rub the liquid into the palms, backs of hands, between fingers and under nails until dry, at least 20 seconds
- Avian Influenza (Flu) (cdc.gov) Prevention and Antiviral Treatment of Bird Flu Viruses in People | Avian Influenza (Flu) (cdc.gov).
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Pets and highly pathogenic strain H5N1 Avian Influenza – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Protect your flock from bird flu – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency: How to prevent and detect disease in small flocks and pet birds – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)
- FAO (2006) Wild bird highly pathogenic avian influenza surveillance: sample collection from healthy, sick, and dead birds. https://www.fao.org/3/a0960e/a0960e00.pdf
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Wild birds and avian influenza – Handling guidelines – Canada.ca
- HPAI in Wildlife National Dashboard: https://cfia-ncr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/89c779e98cdf492c899df23e1c38fdbc
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) – Canada.ca