Fears over the spread of a lethal bird flu strain have prompted Canadian customs officials to beep up inspections for travelers arriving from Europe, local media reported Wednesday.
The Toronto Star reported that Canadian officials are working with border security services to ensure passengers do not import the disease, which is continuing to spread across the European continent.
The most recent cases in Europe include a turkey farm in France, wild ducks in Sweden and a cat in northern Germany -- all have been infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu.
Animal health experts say the greatest potential for spreading the disease to Canada comes from travelers -- not migratory birds.
"We've asked the customs agency to have a higher awareness of anyone coming from any countries in Europe, not just the ones with isolations that have been identified," Dr. Jim Clark of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency told The Star.
Travelers from a list of 20 countries that have been exposed to the virus face questions by Canadian authorities, including whether they have visited a farm in Europe and whether they have hunted or participated in birding or whether they are importing feathers or other bird products.
Clark said that sniffer dogs at Canadian airport luggage carousels will be looking for any feathers or bird products, as well as detecting bird droppings on the bottom of people's shoes or on their clothing.
Several of Canada's provincial governments are also taking extra precaution. Canadian Television reported Quebec passed legislation recently prohibiting domestic poultry producers from keeping their stocks outdoors. And in Ontario, although there is no law, the province's 1,100 commercial chicken producers all keep their poultry inside, according to local authorities.
On Tuesday, Germany announced that the H5N1 strain was found in a cat in country's northern region, marking the first time the virus has been found in the country in an animal other than a bird, the national lab said.
On the same day, Sweden confirmed two wild ducks had also tested positive for bird flu. It was the first known cases of a deadly strain in the country.