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Bird flu confirmed in wild swan in the Norfolk Broads

PUBLISHED: 17:38 07 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:33 11 August 2017

A mute swan flies over the Norfolk Broads. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A mute swan flies over the Norfolk Broads. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A wild swan has tested positive for bird flu in the Norfolk Broads – prompting renewed warnings for poultry keepers to be on their guard against the disease.

The mute swan found at a wild bird reserve on July 26 was infected with the H5N8 strain of avian influenza, the virus which sparked a series of bird culls and preventative actions within the poultry industry earlier this year.

Wild birds are a major risk of spreading the disease, and this is the first positive case confirmed for 16 weeks by Defra’s ongoing wild bird surveillance programme.

However, the finding has not changed the UK’s current risk level of “low”, as avian influenza viruses are expected to be circulating at a low level among resident waterfowl outside of the main migratory season.

Unlike outbreaks found in domestic and commercial poultry, the wild bird case will not trigger any protection zones or mitigation measures – but a Defra spokesman said it should serve as a warning that the disease remains a risk for both commercial farmers and back-yard flocks.

She said: “A recent finding in a dead wild bird serves as a timely reminder for all keepers – whether they have commercial flocks or a few birds in their back garden – to continue to follow good practice on biosecurity to reduce the risk of infection, including minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures, cleaning footwear, keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy and feeding birds inside.”

The country’s most recent case of H5N8 in poultry was confirmed in Norfolk on June 3, when an outbreak hit a small flock of around 35 chickens and geese in a garden in Diss. That was the region’s third case of the year, after 23,000 birds were culled at a farm in the village of Redgrave in February, and a further 55,000 birds culled after the virus was identified at a nearby duck unit.

The government enforced a mandatory housing order requiring poultry keepers to keep their birds indoors, which remained in place in “higher risk areas” until May, when the risk of infection from wild birds receded.

Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency says bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

Members of the public are encouraged to report dead wild waterfowl such as swans, geese and ducks, or other dead wild birds such as gulls or birds of prey, to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

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