The public have been urged not to bring sick or injured birds to an animal charity’s wildlife or rehoming centres in a bid to prevent an avian flu outbreak.
The Scottish SPCA said they made the “tough but necessary” decision to protect the wild birds which are currently in their care from the “worst” case of the virus seen in almost two decades.
Any wild birds brought to its national wildlife rescue centre will be turned away until further notice.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Avian flu has circulated throughout bird populations globally for almost two decades with varying degrees of severity. The current outbreak is far and away the worst in terms of transmission and mortality rates. It has been so sad to see the devastation it has caused, particularly among internationally renowned seabird colonies.
“This decision is tough but necessary to protect the hundreds of wild birds currently in our care. Our inspectors and animal rescue officers have responded to reports of thousands of birds in need this year, and they will continue to do so. We will do everything we can for every bird we attend to.”
Currently, there are more than 700 birds in the animal welfare charity’s care.
The Scottish SPCA’s wildlife experts are concerned about the possibility of admitting a bird with avian flu because the incubation period for the current highly pathogenic strain is two to eight days, meaning a bird could be admitted and spend several days in care without displaying symptoms before becoming unwell.
Mr Flynn added: “We have really robust bio-security and isolation measures in place, but the sheer scale and the rapid spread of this outbreak of avian influenza means we have to take this action.
“One positive case in our rescue centre could mean tens of thousands of hours spent treating all of the birds currently in our care are wasted, as government guidelines mandate all birds could be put to sleep to prevent the disease spreading. The likelihood is we would have to close the centre entirely, jeopardising the wellbeing of not just birds but lots of other animals too.”
The Scottish SPCA is in regular discussions with the Scottish Government, DEFRA and other stakeholders responding to the avian flu outbreak.
The charity confirmed it will review its temporary policy on a weekly basis, acting on the most up-to-date evidence and data on the disease’s spread.