Up to 4,000 birds found dead in UK after new outbreak of deadly bird flu virus

People who feed birds in their gardens have been take extra care and take hygiene precautions when topping up or changing food because of HPAI virus sweeping the UK

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Thousands of birds seen dead amid suspected ‘bird flu’

Up to 4,000 birds have died in what is believed to be the biggest outbreak of a new bird flu virus.

The Svalbard barnacle geese have been found dead on the Solway Firth, which forms part of the border between Scotland and England.

The birds make the journey from Svalbard, north of the Arctic Circle, with visitors flocking to the coast to see tens of thousands of the birds spending their winter there.

But this year avian flu has killed around 4,000 of the geese who have made it to Scottish shores.

Conservationists at the RSPB said around 10% of the Svalbard barnacle geese population have died.

They said the outbreak is ‘easily the largest and most widespread’ in recent years.

The Solway Firth


Dumfries and Galloway Standard)

Paul Walton, RSPB Scotland’s head of habitats and species, said the organisation was treating the outbreak ‘very seriously’.

He warned people who feed birds in their gardens to take extra care and hygiene precautions when topping up or changing food.

Mr Walton said: “We are currently seeing the biggest bird flu outbreak of recent years which is adding yet more pressure to our already beleaguered wild bird populations.

“The presence of the High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus in all UK countries, in both poultry premises and wild birds, and the high numbers of dead and sick birds now seen, is generating growing concern among conservationists and nature lovers.

Barnacle geese in flight over the Solway Firth


Keith Kirk Photographer)

“The current outbreak of HPAI has been evident for several weeks, and is easily the largest and most widespread outbreak in recent years.

“A range of poultry operations are involved across the UK.

“The wild bird species involved are mostly wild geese, ducks and swans, but there have also been a number of birds of prey confirmed to have died from AI.

“We do not know the source of the outbreak and AI is known to circulate at varying levels in wild bird populations, and also in poultry and poultry products.

“Movements of poultry around and between countries, and the migrations of wild birds, are both known vectors of the virus.

A flock of Barnacle Geese flying over the Solway Firth


Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“Of note is the situation on the Solway where ornithologists estimate 3,000-4,000 barnacle geese have died from AI.

“This is significant as it represents around 10 per cent of the population of Svalbard barnacle geese that overwinter on the Solway.

“Birds can be infected with the avian influenza virus through contact with infected individual birds or waste products.

“Wild birds including waterfowl can carry and transmit the virus without showing evidence of disease.

“The RSPB is taking this outbreak very seriously and we are following the government guidance on our reserves and implementing biosecurity measures where needed.

A dawn flight of Barnacle Geese over the Solway


Dumfries And Galloway Standard)

“Although the risk of contracting the disease from a wild bird is very low, we recommend that people do not handle sick or dead wild birds, remain vigilant, and report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), gulls or birds of prey to the government helplines.

“Everyone, at all times but especially now, should take care to maintain good hygiene when feeding garden birds – regularly cleaning feeders outside with mild disinfectant, removing old bird-food, spacing-out feeders as much as possible and washing your hands.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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