Public urged not to touch sick or dead wild birds – as avian influenza confirmed by Defra in Worcester

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The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has now confirmed there is avian influenza A(H5N1) in wild bird populations in Worcester.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is urging people not to touch any sick or dead wild birds following die off in wildfowl including swans at the lakes around County Hall and Nunnery Wood in Worcester.

Sarah Smith UKHSA West Midlands Consultant in Health Protection specialising in avian influenza, said: "The A(H5N1) strain is currently the most common strain of bird flu in this country and is highly pathogenic to other birds. The risk to the public from avian flu remains very low, however it is possible for humans to catch the virus, so it is vital that people do not touch any sick or dead birds, or have contact with their droppings, eggs or bedding, which may also be contaminated. As a precaution, anyone who has been in direct contact with a sick or dying bird in an area where the infection has been confirmed, will require close monitoring and follow up with UKHSA."

Worcestershire County Council, and UKHSA West Midlands are working together and liaising with Defra (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) to manage the situation and protect public health and reduce the risk to other birds, wildlife and pets.

Liz Altay, Interim Director of Public Health Worcestershire County Council, said: "All bird keepers (whether you have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock) must keep a close watch on them for signs of disease, and take all necessary precautions to stop spread of disease to the flock. If you have any concerns about the health of your birds, seek prompt advice from your vet."

Reporting dead birds

If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, please do not touch them. 

If you find dead birds in Worcester, report them to Worcester City Council

Outside of the city, please notify the Defra helpline on 03459 335 577.

Reporting sick or injured birds

  • Please do not touch or pick up any sick or injured birds that you find – contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999

For further advice see GOV.UK

In areas where the infection has been confirmed or is suspected, members of the public who have been in contact with sick or dead birds and their droppings, should make sure any footwear is properly cleaned and thoroughly wash their hands in soap and water. They should then notify the UK Health Security Agency's West Midlands Health Protection Team on 0344 225 3560 so that public health experts can determine if further action is necessary to protect their health, including the prescription of anti-viral medication.

Following an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds and on commercial premises, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain, to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.

Anyone who keeps poultry or captive birds should also take extra precautions including keeping their birds indoors or taking appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. The RSPCA has provided a simple guide to help backyard flock keepers to protect their birds from bird flu. It is important to be vigilant for any signs of disease, if you are concerned about your birds' health or suspect Avian Influenza, please contact your vet immediately.

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