January, 2008

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bird flu updates

This blog will be updated with the latest news on the avian influenza (bird flu) situation.
  • Defra publish report into H5N1 outbreak at Abbotsbury

    Defra has today published its preliminary epidemiology report into the case of H5N1 avian influenza in mute swans at the Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset. Though the source of infection has not been identified, one hypothesis is that wild birds moving from the continent may have carried the virus to the UK.

    The H5N1 virus is believed to have evolved in poultry and, worldwide, it has been transmitted in a number of ways, including movements of poultry and poultry products, the trade in captured wild birds (now banned in the European Union), direct human transfer and contact between wild birds and poultry.

    Although there are both mute swans and other waterfowl present at the Swannery, the virus has only been found in six swans found dead. Samples from 60 live trapped swans and faeces from other waterfowl have tested negative. There has been no virus detected to other wild birds or domestic poultry in the vicinity.

    There is much more we need to know about avian influenza in the UK, and the birds at Abbotsbury Swannery present a unique opportunity to increase our understanding of the transmission and impacts of this virus. Testing live swans for the disease was a good first step. We will support efforts by Defra to monitor progress of the virus amongst the swans at the Swannery over the coming weeks.

    Surveillance for avian influenza continues on RSPB nature reserves across the UK, in order to ensure that the poultry industry and other interests have the earliest possible warning of new outbreaks. We are grateful to Scottish Natural Heritage for recognising our efforts and making a significant contribution towards our monitoring costs in Scotland.
  • Further swans test positive for H5N1

    Defra has confirmed that a fourth mute swan, found dead in the vicinity of Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset, has tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza. The BBC is reporting that a fifth swan has also tested positive for the disease. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn MP, commented in a statement that additional cases were not unexpected, and announced that sampling of live swans at the Swannery will begin in order to investigate whether any others are infected.

    The ongoing epidemiological investigation has not yet identified the source of infection but suggests that the strain of the virus is very similar to that identified in cases in the Czech Republic, Romania and Poland during mid to late 2007. It is less similar to the strain identified in the outbreak near Redgrave, Suffolk, last November.

    Enhanced surveillance continues on RSPB reserves in Dorset, Devon and Somerset, and we continue to work closely with the British Trust for Ornithology, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and others to advise Defra on the actions required to investigate and manage the outbreak.
    Up-to-date information can be found on Defra's website: www.defra.gov.uk
  • H5N1 avian influenza confirmed in Dorset

    The RSPB will increase its surveillance of wild birds on its wetland nature reserves in Dorset, Devon and Somerset in response to the news that the avian flu virus H5N1 has been detected in mute swans from the Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset.

    Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's Director of Conservation, is clear that vigilance is the first priority: 'Since H5N1 bird flu first appeared as a threat to birds in the UK, the RSPB has been at the forefront of monitoring wild birds - this vital work will continue'.

    'Frustratingly we are facing yet another outbreak of bird flu, this time the circumstances are consistent with the disease arriving in wild birds. Worldwide, this virus has been transmitted via a variety of routes only one of which is through the movement of wild birds. Other include poultry movements, direct human transfer and the wild bird trade, now banned in the European Union'.

    'We simply don't know how this virus has arrived in Dorset; it is unlikely to have involved the swans directly as this population is highly sedentary'.