The discovery of a strain of “highly pathogenic” avian flu at a Scottish farm has prompted a warning that people should avoid touching dead birds in the wild.
Restrictions have been imposed locally on poultry, eggs and manure after the H5N1 strain was identified in a flock of 14,000 birds at a rearing site in Glenrothes, Fife.
Concerns were raised about a high death rate in the flock of mixed game birds and a laboratory confirmed some had been infected by the highly dangerous virus.
The entire flock was culled.
A 3km protection zone has been put in place as well as a 10km surveillance zone around the scene to restrict the movement of poultry and related products.
“We ask that the public remain vigilant and report any findings of dead wild birds.”Ben Macpherson MSP
The health risk to humans from the H5N1 virus remains very low, according to the Scottish Government, but the public are being urged to stay away from dead birds and report any sightings.
Bird keepers are also being reminded to follow the latest legislation and biosecurity procedures, including a ban on mixing with wild birds.
Rural affairs and natural environment minister Ben Macpherson said: “Following this confirmation, I have put in place controls required under domestic and EU legislation that will help control any further spread of the disease in the surrounding area.
“We ask that the public remain vigilant and report any findings of dead wild birds. People should not handle the birds.”
Scotland’s chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: “This highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza (H5N1) has been confirmed on a farm of approximately 14,000 mixed game birds with high mortality in the last few days.
“All remaining birds are being humanely culled for disease control purposes.
“It is vital that keepers take steps to improve their biosecurity and protect their birds from disease. Keepers who are concerned about the health or welfare of their flock should seek veterinary advice immediately.
“Your private vet, or your local Animal and Plant Health Agency office, will also be able to practical provide advice on keeping your birds safe from infection.”
The latest outbreak follows confirmation of cases of the H5N8 strain in a flock of free-range chickens on a poultry farm in Sanday, Orkney, in December.
Thirty-nine birds in that flock died and the remaining 11 were put down.
The prevalence of avian influenza across Great Britain recently saw risk levels increased to very high for wild birds, medium for poultry with high biosecurity, and high for poultry with poor biosecurity.
It is an offence to fail to report any suspected case of bird flu, and the discovery of a single dead bird of prey, gull or wild waterfowl – such as swans, geese or ducks – must be reported to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 03459 335577.
The discovery of five or more dead birds of any other species together in the same place should also be reported.