Wild swan found dead in British lake tests positive for bird flu

A wild swan found dead in a lake in Northern Ireland has been confirmed to have been carrying H5N1 Bird Flu – and it's a different strain to one already found in the UK.

H5N1 is as deadly for humans as it is for birds. Since the first recorded human infection in 1997, it has killed nearly 60% of the people who have been infected.

Luckily, Bird Flu isn’t as contagious as coronavirus and, except in a few very rare cases, every case in humans has been traced back to close contact with birds.

The disease does represent a significant threat, though, to the farming industry.

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Speaking about this latest case, Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Robert Huey told Belfast Live : “I can confirm that a case of avian influenza has been detected in a wild bird found at Lough Beg and that preliminary results from AFBI indicate H5N8.

"Further testing of the mute swan is being undertaken at AFBI and samples have been sent to the National Reference Laboratory, Weybridge for further analysis.

“This detection in Northern Ireland is not surprising as there have been two recent confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry in Great Britain. There have also been three confirmed cases of H5N8 in wild birds across England and a falcon in County Limerick has tested positive in recent days.

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"In addition the risk of an avian influenza incursion to the UK increases over the winter months from migrating wild birds.

“In response to these recent findings in England an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been declared across GB from Wednesday 11 November. The AIPZ will introduce more stringent biosecurity measures to help prevent the spread of the disease from wild birds or another source.

“The risk level in Northern Ireland to poultry is assessed as moderate with biosecurity levels on individual sites a crucial mitigation factor. Veterinary officials continue to monitor the situation across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland and in consultation with stakeholders will determine the necessary next steps to mitigate for an avian influenza incursion in poultry here.”

On November 6, Dr Huey issued a "further warning" to poultry farmers and pet bird keepers “following confirmation that the strain of Avian Influenza found in Cheshire, is highly pathogenic”.

The strain, DAERA said, “is related to the virus currently circulating in Europe but is unrelated to the H5N2 strain confirmed in Kent”.

Today, Dr Huey “reminded bird owners of the need to continue to deploy effective biosecurity measures”.

He added: “I would re-emphasise the need for all keepers of poultry, including game birds and pet birds, to take action now and carefully consider and improve biosecurity to reduce the risk of transmission of disease to their flocks.

“If avian influenza were to enter our Northern Ireland flock, it would have a significant impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy.

"All keepers of birds should critically review and improve their biosecurity measures where necessary in order to keep their birds safe.”

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