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Stackyard News Oct 06

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Increase in wild bird surveillance for Avian Flu

More than 300 nature reserves, parks and reservoirs are being added to the list of sites where wild birds are tested for signs of avian influenza, Environment Secretary David Miliband announced today.


The sites, owned by wildlife groups, local authorities and private companies, will be patrolled by their staff who will report dead water birds to Defra - enhancing national surveillance of the wild bird population.

Mr Miliband was visiting an organic goose farm in Sandy, Bedfordshire and the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, one of the partners joining the wild bird survey.

He said:

“This will greatly increase the scope of our surveillance and add to our understanding of the disease risk. There is no reason to think that any dead birds found at these sites are more likely to have died of avian flu but this is a highly efficient way to sample more wild birds and to target our work effectively.

“This initiative means we are also building more long-term working partnerships with conservation groups, local communities and private industry across the country. Together we may limit the risk of highly-pathogenic avian influenza.”

The extra surveillance sites comprise more than 1,200 square kilometres. They will complement the targeted strategy for detecting high-pathogenic avian flu which was launched by Defra and the devolved administrations in September and which includes testing of live birds, dead birds and those shot during sports shooting.

There is also a domestic poultry survey which has been testing a sample of farmed birds since 2003. Any suspicion of avian influenza in farmed birds is investigated by Defra and the SVS immediately.


1. 304 new sites have become official wild bird survey sites. Dead birds of certain target species found at these sites will be reported to the Defra helpline and a selection collected by the State Veterinary Service for testing.

2. The UK's first survey for avian influenza in wild birds began last October after the European Union advised all member states to enhance surveillance of wild birds after the virus gradually spread west.

3. Thousands of samples have been tested but there has so far only been one case of highly pathogenic H5N1 detected in a sample from a dead swan found at Cellardyke in Scotland in April. It is normal for a proportion of wild birds to carry low pathogenic avian influenza viruses so it would not be unusual to detect some LPAI viruses over the course of the survey. These are normally of little significance to human or animal health.

link Health Protection Agency develops single test for H5 avian and seasonal flu
link Caucasus, Balkans at high risk for deadly H5N1 virus
link Both endemic and new virus strains to blame for bird flu recurrence in Asia
link Avian flu: global sharing of virus samples

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