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Public urged not to touch sick or dead birds – as avian influenza confirmed by Defra in Tipton

Published 10th December 2021

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have confirmed there is avian influenza A(H5N1) in the wild bird population in Tipton.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Sandwell Council are urging people not to touch any sick or dead wild birds in the borough – with avian flu confirmed in the Canada goose population in Victoria Park, Tipton.

Sandwell Council and the UKHSA is working with APHA and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to manage the situation and protect public health and the risk to other birds, wildlife and pets.

The A(H5N1) strain is highly pathogenic to other birds, but the risk to human health is considered very low, however it is vital that people do not touch sick live birds or bird carcasses, and infection control measures may be necessary if they do.

Dr Lisa McNally, Sandwell’s Director of Public Health, said: “Firstly, I want Sandwell residents to know that the risk of them catching avian flu is very low. Avian flu is a disease of birds and it is very unusual for humans to be affected. We are issuing this warning as a precaution because it is possible for humans to catch it through close contact with an infected bird, dead or alive.

“The main way to protect yourself from contracting avian flu is to avoid direct contact with wild birds and bird droppings or litter. So, it’s very important not to touch any sick or dead wild birds you may find. This includes touching infected birds, their droppings, eggs or bedding.”

Dr James Chipwete, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with the UKHSA in the West Midlands, said: “The risk to the public from this strain of avian flu is very low, however it is important that people do not touch any sick or dead birds. As a precaution, anyone who has been in contact with the birds or droppings in an area where the infection has been confirmed, may require a course of antiviral medication and close monitoring for 10 days from last contact with infected birds.”

If you have found and touched a sick or dead bird

  • In areas where the infection has been confirmed or is suspected, anyone who has been in contact with sick or dead birds or their droppings should make sure any footwear is properly cleaned and thoroughly wash their hands in soap and water.
  • Then contact the UK Health Security Agency’s West Midlands Health Protection Team on 0344 225 3560 so that public health experts can determine if antiviral medication and active surveillance of their condition is necessary.

In Sandwell:

  • If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the council on 0121 368 1177 (Option 2 Street Cleansing, Option 3 Dead Animals) (Monday to Friday 8.00am to 5.30pm). If you’re calling out of hours, please email ancillary_support@sandwell.gov.uk
  • Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find. If you have found a sick or injured bird, contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. Do not touch the bird.
  • Visit the council’s website for more information and answers to frequently asked questions about avian flu.

Outside the Sandwell borough:

  • anyone who sees sick or dead birds by waterways or on your private land, please do not touch them and call the Defra helpline on 03459 335 577.

Following a number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds across Great Britain, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across the whole of Great Britain, to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.

Anyone who keeps poultry or captive birds should also take extra precautions including keeping their birds indoors or taking appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds the RSPCA has provided a simple guide to help backyard flock keepers to protect their birds from bird flu. It is important to be vigilant for any signs of disease, if you are concerned about your birds’ health or suspect avian influenza, please contact your vet immediately.

More information on bird flu is available on the NHS website.

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