Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bird flu fears as strain found in wild swans

Fears of a bird flu outbreak have returned to Britain after three wild swans found dead in Dorset tested positive for the virus.

Defra has confirmed that the mute swans, found in the picturesque Chesil Beach area, were infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, which can be passed to humans.

The wild swans were found near Chesil Beach

Officials battling to ensure the virus is contained have set up a control and monitoring area around the Abbotsbury Swannery, a sanctuary nine miles from Weymouth.

Bird owners within the zone, which includes Chesil Beach and Portland Bill, are being asked to isolate their flocks from wild birds.

John Houston, from the popular swannery, said: “Our main concern is the welfare of the swans, our staff and the general public.

“We are working closely with Defra to ensure that this outbreak is contained and that the number of swans affected is limited.

“We are also working with the Health Protection Agency to make sure that the public and staff are fully protected.”

Fred Landeg, acting chief ceterinary officer for Defra, said: “While this is obviously unwelcome news, we have always said that Britain is at a constant low level of risk of introduction of Avian Influenza.

“Our message to all bird keepers, particularly those in the area, is that they must be vigilant, report any signs of disease immediately, and practice the highest levels of biosecurity.”

The highly pathogenic bird flu strain has not been found in domestic birds but a programme of surveillance is being carried out in the local wild bird population.

Defra said there is no culling of wild birds planned because such action may disperse birds further and would not help control.

The Abbotsbury Swannery is a reserve for free flying swans and wild birds and is part of an internationally important wetland.

Records of a Swannery existing on the site, a seasonal tourist attraction, date back to 1354.

Bird flu story source: Telegraph

Posted by john T. on 01/10 at 10:27 AM
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