Bird flu back in Britain – and more outbreaks expected

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in 17 wild birds in Dorset, according to Defra. 

Swans are among the wild birds killed by an infection of the bird flu strain H5N6, according to a report Defra submitted to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on 10 January 2018.

There is no risk to public health. The flu strain is different to the one that killed over 100 people in China last year.

The disease has not hit commercial poultry farms and the risk remains low. But Defra is braced for more outbreaks among wild birds in the coming days.

“This is the first time avian flu has been identified in the UK this winter and while the disease does not represent a threat to the public, it is highly infectious and deadly to birds,” UK chief veterinary officer, Nigel Gibbens, said.

“As the virus has been circulating across Europe, this finding has not come as a surprise. But it is vital that anyone who keeps birds - whether a few in a back garden or thousands on a farm - is vigilant for any signs of disease, reports suspect disease to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and maintains good biosecurity to reduce the risk of their birds becoming infected.”

Local measures have been set up to help local authorities manage what Defra called the “potential threat” of further bird flu outbreaks. No culls of wildlife or movement restrictions are being considered at this stage.

Outbreak of the disease was officially confirmed by a government laboratory in Weybridge last week.

Defra says on its website that the “risk of bird flu in the UK is likely to increase” in the winter.

Poultry keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 and keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA on 03000 200 301.

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