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Public urged not to pick up sick or dead birds following avian flu cases confirmed in Lancashire

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 Lancashire.

People are being urged not to pick up sick or dead birds following several confirmed cases of avian influenza (bird flu) in the Lancashire area. People who find dead swans, geese or ducks or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

The warning follows several detections of avian influenza in wild birds in Lancashire and other areas across Great Britain. The Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have now declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across the whole of Great Britain to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.

It is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks.

Keepers with more than 500 birds will need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers will need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles will need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Avian influenza circulates naturally in wild birds and when they migrate to the UK from mainland Europe over the winter, they can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.
Backyard owners with smaller numbers of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese must also take steps to limit the risk of the disease spreading to their animals.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, said: "I want to reassure residents that the risk to public health from avian flu is very low.

"However, it is important that people do not pick up any sick or dead birds to avoid spreading the virus, which can affect humans in rare cases.

"If you do find any dead swans, geese or ducks or other dead wild birds while out and about, please report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

"I would also urge bird keepers to be vigilant for any signs of disease and report any suspected cases to their nearest Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA office).”

Mark McGivern, Consultant in Health Protection in the North West at the UK Health Security Agency, said:

“The risk to public health from the virus is very low, however it is important that people don’t pick up sick or dead birds.

“As a precaution, anyone who was in contact with the droppings or birds in an area where the infection has been confirmed, is undergoing close monitoring and are assessed to determine whether a course of antiviral medication is also required.”

“I would also urge bird keepers to be vigilant for any signs of disease, to report any suspicions of disease to their nearest Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office and to ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.”

More information available at: Avian influenza (bird flu) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)