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

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Published: Friday, 14th January 2022

Confirmed cases of Avian Flu have been discovered within the wild bird population in the city.

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

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Birmingham City Council are urging people not to touch any sick or dead wild birds in the area – with avian flu confirmed in the Canada goose population in Cannon Hill Park and Witton Lakes.

The council and the UKHSA is working with APHA and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to manage the situation and protect public health and the risk to other birds, wildlife and pets.

The A(H5N1) strain is highly pathogenic to poultry and other birds, but the risk to human health is considered very low. However, it is vital that people do not touch sick wild birds or wild bird carcasses, and infection control measures may be necessary if they do.

Angela Cartwright, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with the UKHSA in the West Midlands, said:

“The risk to the public from this strain of avian flu is very low, this is an infectious virus which spreads among birds and it is very unusual for humans to be affected. However, it is possible for humans to catch the virus through close contact with an infected bird, dead or alive. Therefore, it is very important that you do not touch any sick or dead wild birds you may find. Equally, you must not touch their droppings, eggs or bedding.

“As a precaution, anyone who has been in contact with the birds or droppings in an area where the infection has been confirmed, may require a course of antiviral medication and close monitoring for 10 days from last contact with infected birds.”

Cllr John O’Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks at Birmingham City Council, said:

“This is a very serious situation, so we would urge people to follow the guidance on how to safely use our parks and open spaces.

“This will help reduce risk to both wildlife and people, including our parks staff. The council and partner agencies are working closely on the response to this outbreak, which follows others in various parts of the country – and will continue doing whatever needs to be done to address and control the situation.”

If you have found and touched a sick or dead bird

  • In areas where the infection has been confirmed or is suspected, anyone who has been in contact with sick or dead birds or their droppings should make sure any footwear is properly cleaned and thoroughly wash their hands in soap and water.
  • Then contact the UK Health Security Agency’s West Midlands Health Protection Team on 0344 225 3560 so that public health experts can determine if antiviral medication and active surveillance of their condition is necessary.

Reporting sick or dead birds in Birmingham

  • If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Birmingham City Council team on 0121 454 7810.
  • Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find. If you have found a sick or injured bird, contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. Do not touch the bird.

Outside the Birmingham area

  • 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 and call the Defra helpline on 03459 335 577. For further advice see GOV.UK

Following a number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds across Great Britain, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have 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. The Government has also introduced mandatory housing measures for all poultry and other captive birds to limit the spread of avian influenza in the UK.

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.

More information on bird flu is available on the NHS website.

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