Bird flu has been detected in 17 wild birds in Dorset, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed today, with more expected over the coming days.
This is the first confirmed finding of the virus in the UK this winter and tests have shown it is closely related to the H5N6 strain that has been circulating in wild birds across Europe in recent months. This is different to the strains which affected people in China last year and Public Health England have advised the risk to public health is very low. The Food Standards Agency have said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.
UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, said:
This is the first time avian flu has been identified in the UK this winter and while the disease does not represent a threat to the public, it is highly infectious and deadly to birds.
As the virus has been circulating across Europe, this finding has not come as a surprise. But it is vital that anyone who keeps birds – whether a few in a back garden or thousands on a farm – is vigilant for any signs of disease, reports suspect disease to APHA and maintains good biosecurity to reduce the risk of their birds becoming infected.
While there is no legislative requirement to put restrictions in place when this strain of virus is found in wild birds, the Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed local measures will be introduced to help manage the potential threat.