Avian Flu

Infections of H5N8 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in wild, captive or domestic birds have now been reported in 14 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. No cases have been found in the UK but as a precautionary measure Avian Influenza Prevention Zones have been put in place in England, Scotland and Wales requiring that poultry and captive birds be kept separate from wild birds.

The updated guidance on Avian Flu can be found at the BTO site:  https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/taking-part/health-safety/avian-flu

General government guidance on avian influenza can be found at: www.gov.uk/avian-influenza-bird-flu .     The latest information from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency on the current outbreaks in poultry, captive and wild birds in Europe can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/avian-influenza-bird-flu-in-europe

What to do

Birdwatchers can be of great assistance in staying alert for unusual cases of mortality or sickness in wild birds. If you notice unusual mortality, i.e. five or more wild birds dead in the same location, you should report them by calling the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm) and selecting option 1, or by emailing defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

HPAI is a disease of birds and whilst of great concern for the poultry industry does not appear to be a major issue for human health in the UK.  The advice is that there is no danger from eating well-cooked poultry and there is certainly no danger from normal birdwatching activities. Sensible basic hygiene should be used if you do come into closer contact with birds.

Feeding birds

It is extremely unlikely that bird flu could be transmitted to people by feeding birds in the garden.    Birds carry a variety of diseases, such as salmonella. The single most important action we can take, to protect both the birds that feed in our gardens and ourselves, is to follow hygiene guidelines.

In all circumstances, after handling bird feeders, cleaning bird baths or feeding birds, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Bird feeders should be washed and cleaned regularly to prevent spread of diseases such as salmonella. This should be done outside in your garden with dilute disinfectant (normal household bleach diluted 1:20).

What do I do if I find a dead bird?

Many thousands of birds die every week of natural causes and so it is not unusual to occasionally find dead birds. If, however, you find five or more dead wild or garden birds together in the same place and you are suspicious of the cause of death, do not touch the birds and contact Defra using the details above. This is particularly important for species like waterfowl.

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