Read more about bird flu (avian influenza)
New outbreaks of avian influenza H5N8 this week in a commercial turkey flock in Lincolnshire, and a commercial flock of farmed breeding pheasants Lancashire, suggest that that the virus is continuing to spread. There have now been a total of six outbreaks of H5N8 in captive birds in the UK this winter, three of which have been in separate turkey farms in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire, although whether or not this latest case is connected to the nearby outbreak discovered 10 days ago is currently unknown.
A prevention zone requiring anyone in charge of poultry or other captive birds to ensure that they are housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds remains in place across the whole of the UK until the end of next month, at which point the UK governments must assess whether the zone can be lifted. It is also extremely important that poultry keepers practice good biosecurity to minimise the risk of infection spreading via items such as feed, clothing or equipment.
This year we have been informed of two more positive cases of H5N8 in wild birds on our reserves – a wigeon at Leighton Moss in Lancashire, and a buzzard - most probably having fed on infected prey - at West Sedgemoor in Somerset. This brings us up to a total of six reserves this winter, all of which remain open to visitors.
The risk to humans is extremely low, although if you see a dead bird please avoid physical contact and report it as soon as possible. The Defra hotline (03459 33 55 77) are currently requesting reports of any dead ducks, geese, swans, gulls, or birds of prey. For all other species, please only report if five or more are found in the same place. If in Northern Ireland please report sightings to DAERA on 0300 200 7840.
Since I last updated this blog on 31st December we have received information about two more confirmed cases of H5N8 on RSPB reserves: a wigeon on the Exe Estuary in Devon, and a teal at Conwy in north Wales. Both birds were found dead on the reserves and were immediately reported to the Defra helpline by RSPB staff.
As mentioned in my last update this is not unexpected as the virus is probably circulating in wild birds throughout the UK. The risk to humans remains low and we have not closed the affected sites, but reserves staff at these sites and across our whole reserves network are increasing biosecurity as needed in order to minimise virus spread, and remaining vigilant for dead or sick birds.
If you see a dead bird please avoid physical contact. The Defra hotline (03459 33 55 77) are currently requesting reports of any dead ducks, geese, swans, gulls, or birds of prey. For all other species, please only report if five or more are found in the same place. If in Northern Ireland please report sightings to DAERA on 0300 200 7840.