Immunologist Makes Headlines on Avian Flu Outbreaks

Dr. Shayan Sharif

Immunologist Dr. Shayan Sharif has made national headlines sharing his expertise in avian influenza and the recent outbreaks across the country. 

Speaking to CBC’s The National and to Global News, Sharif said the virus is not currently transmittable to humans and the likelihood of it transferring to the human food system is “extremely, extremely unlikely.”  

Appearing on the April 11 episode of CTV Your Morning, Sharif explained the actions currently being undertaken to contain the virus. He also commented on how migratory birds may help spread the virus, although the extent to which is unclear. 

Sharif also weighed in on Toronto city council’s debate over permitting residents to have backyard chickens to the Toronto Star. He said he would “absolutely not” keep hens in his backyard citing biosecurity concerns since the virus is known to be in wild bird populations as well as domestic flocks. 

Speaking to CBC Ottawa and Canadian Poultry, Sharif emphasized the number of avian flu cases in Canada is still relatively low. To CBC Ottawa he added, there’s still time to make sure “the virus is contained very effectively and very successfully.”  

Sharif also spoke to CTV Kitchener, The London Free Press and the Woolwich Observer about the outbreaks in Ontario. In a second interview with CTV Kitchener, Sharif commented on the current biosecurity measures in place within Ontario’s poultry industry.  

To CBC Kitchener-Waterloo, Sharif commented on the increasing spread of avian flu in wild birds, saying it’d be unsurprising if Quebec and Manitoba were to detect cases. He also discouraged the use of backyard bird feeders saying now is “probably not the best time” and that those with feeders will need to take extra precautions to prevent the spread. 

A professor in the Department of Pathobiology at the Ontario Veterinary College, Sharif specializes in the immune systems of chickens, including their responses to the avian influenza virus. He is also the associate dean of research and graduate studies.