Bird flu found in dead swans in UK

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bird flu Avian influenza Influenza

Poultry farmers in the UK are being alerted to further cases of
bird flu in the country, after the government revealed yesterday
that it had identified the disease in three dead wild swans.

Tests on the swans found in Dorset were positive for the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1. No disease has been found in domestic birds but animal health experts are set to begin inspecting a number of poultry farms. They have also placed restrictions on the movement of captive birds within several miles of the location where the swans were found. A programme of surveillance is also being carried out in the local wild bird population, said the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) but it will not cull wild birds as this could disperse birds further and would not aid control, it said in a statement. All poultry keepers on the GB Poultry Register are being notified, and the EU Commission has been informed, it said. In November the H5N1 avian flu was identified in a commercial poultry farm in Norfolk. Government vets are now investigating whether there is a link between the flu strain found in turkeys on this farm and that found in the dead swans. It has already been suggested that wild birds attracted to an ornamental lake next to an organic farm had infected the outdoor turkeys. If experts confirm this link, it could hurt free-range and organic poultry farmers who may be forced to review their business, especially if their birds are reared near where wild birds congregate. Last year Poland, Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic also reported bird flu outbreaks. Outbreaks in commercial farms typically send prices plummeting owing to weakening consumer confidence and export opportunities. But despite the disruption to European markets last year, the ongoing risk of bird flu is not expected to alter the medium-term outlook for poultry production, according to a recent report. Per capita consumption in the 27 EU member states is still expected to increase from 22kg in 2006 to 24.3kg by 2014, said non-profit organisation Aveca last month. The UK's acting chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg said in a statement yesterday: "While this is obviously unwelcome news, we have always said thatBritainis at a constant low level of risk of introduction of avian influenza."​ He said all bird keepers, particularly those in the area, must be vigilant and report any signs of disease immediately. This is the second highly pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza case detected in a wild bird in the British Isles. The previous case was the swan found in Scotland in April 2006.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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