Govt takes precautions for potential bird flu outbreak
The Department of Environment will be humanely decreasing populations of feral birds as a precaution following an outbreak of bird flu in northern Europe.
The outbreak led to the closure of poultry farms in the UK and has resulted in the death of thousands of seabirds in their nesting colonies earlier this year.
Bird flu is now in the Iberian Peninsula, largely as a result of the movement of migratory birds that fly south for the winter.
Bird flu has affected seabirds in particular, including species that frequent local shores at this time of year, such as gannets and razorbills.
The Department of the Environment said that a number of dead seabirds have appeared on Gibraltar’s coastline recently, and while bird flu has not yet definitely been identified, it remains very possible that this was the cause.
“Avian influenza is a common illness in birds. I assess the health risk, at this time, to the public to be very low,”. Director of Public Health Dr Helen Carter said.
“The World Health Organisation have confirmed that the current avian influenza outbreak is being caused by a H9N2 influenza strain. We currently are experiencing an early increase in human seasonal flu cases with a H1N1 influenza strain.”
“The risk is that someone who is infected with a human strain of seasonal flu could become infected at the same time with the avian flu strain. This mixing of viruses can cause a new flu strain to form that results in a more severe illness.”
“This is why I am working closely with the Environment Agency and we are adopting a pre-cautionary approach. We are strongly advising the public not to touch dead birds but to call the Environment Protection and Research Unit.”
The advice from the Department of the Environment is that dead or sick seabirds (or any birds) should not be touched but should be reported to the Department’s Environmental Protection and Research Unit (EPRU) on telephone 58009620.
The birds will then be collected for examination.
At the same time, the Department of Environment said, it will become necessary to take precautions to humanely decrease the populations of feral birds, such as pigeons and chickens, that come into close contact with and are fed by the public.