The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have now confirmed there is avian influenza A(H5N1) in the wild bird population in Walsall.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is now urging people in Walsall not to touch any sick or dead wild birds in the borough – with avian flu confirmed in the swan population in the Stubbers Green area.
Walsall 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 other birds, but the risk to human health is considered very low, however it is vital that people do not touch sick live birds or bird carcasses, and infection control measures may be necessary if they do.
Stephen Gunther, Walsall’s Director of Public Health said: “I want to reassure Walsall residents that the risk of them catching avian flu is very low. It is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds.
“The virus spreads by close contact with an infected bird (dead or alive). Therefore, it is vital that you do not touch any sick or dead birds you may find. This includes touching infected birds, their droppings, eggs or bedding. If you find dead wild waterfowl (such as swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to Walsall Council on 01922 65 00 00. Please do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.
“I would like to ask people not to feed any birds until further notice. Feeding encourages them to congregate and that increases the risk of the disease spreading to other birds.”
Dr Naveed Syed, 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, however it is important that people do not touch any sick or dead birds. As a precaution, anyone who was not wearing appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) while in contact with the droppings or birds in an area where the infection has been confirmed, will require close monitoring and a course of antiviral medication for 10 days from last contact with infected birds.”
If you have found a dead bird
· Any Walsall residents who find dead birds in Stubbers Green or other areas of Walsall should notify the Council on 01922 650 000 for safe removal and disposal. Do not touch the bird.
If you have found a sick or injured bird
- Anyone who sees sick wildfowl in the Walsall area should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. Do not touch the bird.
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, while not wearing the correct PPE (personal protective equipment), should make sure any footwear is properly cleaned and thoroughly wash their hands in soap and water.
- Then contact theUK 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. If someone handled infected birds while wearing adequate PPE, they must still undergo active surveillance.
Outside the Walsall borough
· anyone who sees sick or dead birds by waterways or on your private land, please do not touch them at any cost and call the Defra helpline on 03459 335 577.
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.
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.