Avian Influenza (Avian or Bird Flu)

A deadly strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is spreading through bird populations. Since October 2022 an outbreak of this disease has been confirmed in 61 wild bird species. During last summer the outbreak had a catastrophic affect on some of the UK’s major seabird colonies killing many thousands of birds. The number of birds infected is likely to rise significantly over the winter when many thousands of wild birds, especially swans, geese and ducks move to GB from their distant breeding grounds on the continent.

Avian Flu, or bird flu, is an infectious disease which mostly spreads from bird to bird through contact with infected saliva and droppings.

I am posting this because we have swans, ducks and other waterfowl on the allotments that may be joined by migrant wild birds during the winter.

Can humans get flu from birds?

Human infections with HPAI are rare and the risk to the general public’s health is very low.

Although avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses usually do not infect people, there have been some rare cases of human infection with these viruses. Illness in humans from bird flu virus infections have ranged in severity from no symptoms or mild illness to severe disease that resulted in death. However, some strains of the virus, such as H5N1 or H7N9, have been associated with human disease. This is why people are encouraged not to have close contact with sick or injured birds.

What should I do if I find a dead bird? 

Do not touch or pick up a dead or visibly sick wild bird. Please do not touch or handle the bird(s). If you are walking with your dog, keep your dog away from the infected bird.

Call Defra on 03459 33 55 77 if you find:

  • one or more dead birds of prey
  • 3 or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks)
  • 5 or more dead wild birds of any other species (including gulls) at the same place at the same time,

You do not need to report any other found dead wild birds. Bird flu is not a notifiable disease in wild birds.

If you report a dead wild bird, Deparment for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs  Defra)  and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) may arrange to collect it and test it. This is to help explain where bird flu is spreading in Great Britain and in which types of birds.

Further guidance can be found on the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) website:

Bird flu (avian influenza): how to spot it and report it

The signs of bird flu, how to report it in poultry and other captive birds and what to do if you find a dead wild bird:


Information is also on RSPB website: http://www.rspb.org

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