Public reminded not to touch sick or dead birds or any potentially infected materials to help combat risk of avian flu

Published: Friday, 28th January 2022

With avian influenza spreading in the wild bird population, people visiting city parks are reminded to not touch sick/dead birds – or anything that might have been in contact with infected droppings.

The warning comes after the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) initially confirmed that the A(H5N1) strain of avian flu had been detected in water fowl, including Canada geese and swans, two weeks ago at Cannon Hill Park.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Birmingham City Council are 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.

Dr Roger Gajraj Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with the UKHSA in the West Midlands, said: “The A(H5N1) strain is highly pathogenic to poultry and other birds, but the risk to human health is considered very low. While it is unusual for humans to be affected, it is possible for people to catch the virus. Therefore, it is vital that people do not touch sick wild birds, wild bird carcasses, or anything that might be contaminated from bird droppings, and infection control measures may be necessary if they do. We are also asking people not to hand feed wild birds in affected areas, as a bird may be infected but not yet showing any symptoms.

“As a precaution, anyone who has been in contact with the birds or droppings in an area where the infection has been confirmed should contact the UKHSA West Midlands Health Protection Team, as they 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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