Authorities are trying to find out how the virulent H5N1 bird flu virus strain infected and killed three mute swans in Dorset, England. Other birds at Abbotsbury Swannery are being tested. Abbotsbury Swannery, approximately 9 miles from Weymouth, is a bird sanctuary. According to Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the dead birds were found while routine surveillance was taking place.

Authorities are asking all bird keepers, particularly those in Dorset, to be extra vigilant. Experts say birds will not be culled as this move could disperse birds further away.

John Houston, Abbotsbury Swannery, said this latest outbreak is a “big shock” for him and all his staff. He stressed that his main concern is for the welfare of the swans, staff and the general public. “We are also working with the Health Protection Agency to ensure that staff and public are fully protected,” he said.

Experts say this latest outbreak is more worrying because it involves wild birds.

Defra informs that tests from the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) confirm that the swans were infected with the highly pathogenic (virulent) H5N1 avian influenza virus strain. A 3km Control Area and 10km Monitoring Area are being established around the premises. Within these areas bird gatherings will be banned, and bird keepers must house their birds or make sure they are cannot come into contact with wild birds or their feathers and droppings.

Defra adds that it is working closely with ornithological experts to consider what wider measures may be required. So far, no domestic birds have been reported as infected.

More information on movement restrictions applying during an Avian Influenza outbreak

If you need to report dead wild gulls, waders, ducks, geese or swans; groups of dead birds or need advice on avian flu, please contact the Defra Helpline 08459 33 55 77 Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm. More information on finding dead birds is available. For information on the disposal of poultry please see Defra’s Fallen Stock pages.

Abbotsbury Swannery
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Defra – Avian Flu Page
“Avian Influenza – Still a Disease of Birds”, British Veterinary Association

Written by – Christian Nordqvist