Bird flu updates

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Bird flu updates

This blog will be updated with the latest news on the avian influenza (bird flu) situation.
  • H5N8 found on RSPB reserves

    We have been informed that highly pathonegic avian influenza H5N8 has been recorded in a small number of wildfowl on RSPB reserves at Frampton and Marshside. The virus was detected in birds found dead on site as a result of the vigilance of  reserve staff and visitors. This finding is not unexpected as the disease has already been found in wild birds across Europe, including cases in England, Scotland and Wales earlier this month.

    Following advice from Public Health England we will not initially be closing the reserves. Signage at the affected sites provides guidance to visitors, emphasising the importance of hygiene. Visitors should take care to avoid physical contact with dead or sick birds, which should be reported to site staff or directly to the Defra hotline (details below). RSPB staff and volunteers across our entire reserves network will continue to be vigilant for dead or sick birds and will report these to Defra as required.

    There is no record of this strain of bird flu ever being transferred to people and the risk to humans is low. Defra have assessed that the risk to poultry remains at low to medium, and will vary according to the level of biosecurity on site.

    Members of the public are encouraged to report any dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), or other dead wild birds such as gulls or birds of prey, to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

    More information about the latest situation on bird flu in the UK and advice on reducing risks can be found on the Defra website here:

  • Defra publishes report into H7N7 outbreak in Oxfordshire

    Defra has today published its epidemiology report into the case of H7N7 avian influenza in chickens on premises near Banbury, in Oxfordshire.  The source of infection has not been identified, with two hypotheses under investigation.  These are infection from other domestic poultry premises and from wildlife in contact with the infected premises.

    The report states that wild bird activity around the infected premises was low, and rates the risk of wild ducks or other waterfowl being the source of infection as low.  This reflects the time of year and the absence of any major water features nearby.  Samples taken from mallards introduced to a small pond on the farm for shooting have tested negative. There has been no virus detected in other wild birds or domestic poultry in the vicinity.  Further investigations of both potential sources of infection are ongoing.
    The RSPB continues 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.  We have curtailed RSPB fieldwork within the control zones to eliminate the very small chance that such activity could spread the disease.

  • 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.