Bird flu detected in 17 wild birds in Dorset, with more expected

Bird flu has been detected in 17 birds in Dorset. Picture; DEFRA

Bird flu has been detected in 17 birds in Dorset. Picture; DEFRA - Credit: Archant

Bird flu has been detected in wild birds in Dorset, with more expected over the coming days.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the H5N6 strain had been found in 17 wild birds, making it the first confirmed in the UK this winter.

It is closely related to the H5N6 strain that has been circulating in wild birds across Europe in recent months, tests confirm.

This is different to the strains which affected people in China last year, DEFRA said, and Public Health England have advised the risk to public health is very low. The Food Standards Agency have said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

UK chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said while the disease did not pose a threat to the public, it was “highly infectious and deadly to birds”.

“As the virus has been circulating across Europe, this finding has not come as a surprise,” he said.

“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 Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and maintains good biosecurity to reduce the risk of their birds becoming infected.”

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While there is no legislative requirement to put restrictions in place when this strain of virus is found in wild birds, the Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed local measures will be introduced to help manage the potential threat.

A local ‘avian influenza prevention zone’ is set to be introduced in the area of Dorset where the diseased birds were found, meaning captive bird keepers will have to put enhanced biosecurity measures in place such as feeding and watering birds indoors to minimise mixing with wild birds, minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures, cleaning and disinfecting footwear and keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy.

There are no plans to carry out any culls or put movement restrictions in place.

DEFRA said the risk to domestic poultry nationally remains low, but good biosecurity was essential and bird keepers across the country are reminded to follow our biosecurity advice which includes specific advice for keepers of backyard flocks.

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.