The NGO is advising its members that on 22 January Defra updated its avian influenza (bird flu) risk assessment when the identical strain of bird flu virus (H5N6) was detected in dead wild birds at sites in Warwickshire and Hertfordshire. H5N6 had been found among wild birds in Dorset earlier in January.
The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation is advising its members that on 22 January Defra updated its avian influenza (bird flu) risk assessment (made on 14 January) when the identical strain of bird flu virus (H5N6) was detected in dead wild birds at sites in Warwickshire and Hertfordshire. H5N6 had been found earlier in January among wild birds in Dorset.
Defra now considers the likelihood of finding more cases in wild birds in England and Wales to have increased, and the risk level for incursion in wild birds has risen from medium to high. Many gulls of various species roost at the Warwickshire site, several of which are migratory, and experts suggest these birds will travel long distances both as part of their migration and relatively long distances on their daily commute between feeding sites and roosting sites.
Defra has also increased the risk level for the direct and indirect exposure to kept poultry (and captive gamebirds) to medium. It is thought that infected gulls may carry the virus to kept poultry (and captive gamebirds) either directly or indirectly by infecting other water birds and waterfowl.
IMPORTANT Defra says that though the level of risk for the direct and indirect exposure to poultry (and captive gamebirds) has been put at medium, this will depend on the biosecurity level of the holding: where strong biosecurity is implemented, the risk may be mitigated to low.
To read Defra’s risk assessment advice in full and to understand how Defra has come to its conclusions, click here
Please note that since 18 January an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone has covered the whole of England, consequently all those with captive birds, including any gamekeepers with captive wintering flocks, are legally required to follow strict biosecurity measures. For full details click here
Defra advises those with released game to continue to feed and water these gamebirds, but to make reasonable efforts to minimise the chance of other wild birds accessing their feed and water, for example by placing it under cover.
Advice on biosecurity, including how to spot avian influenza, what to do if you suspect it, and measures to prevent it, is available by clicking here
Those with gamebirds should also be fully aware of the game-specific advice put together by seven countryside and shooting organisations (BASC, CA, CLA, GFA, GWCT, NGO and SGA) and endorsed by Defra, the Scottish and Welsh Governments and DAERA in Northern Ireland. It can be read here
There are currently no findings of bird flu in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and the Prevention Zone is for England only.
Please note that shooting is not restricted, but the NGO would however urge shooting interests in the vicinity of specific bird flu outbreaks to act appropriately and consider fully the implications of their actions at this time.
Gamekeepers who find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds in unexpected circumstances should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.
A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation said: “It is clear from the advice circulated by Defra that the use of best practice biosecurity is thought to reduce the risk of captive gamebirds from becoming infected by bird flu. Nothing can provide an absolute defence against the risk of birds contracting avian influenza of course, but we urge all those with captive gamebirds – and kept poultry too – to do their utmost to make sure their systems provide the best possible defence against the transmission of infection, and in line with their legal obligations at this time.
“We also ask all those with an involvement with gamebirds to ensure they are fully up to speed with all the relevant advice on bird flu that is available through the Defra website, and to please keep checking for updates on the NGO website and on our social media.”
Notes to Editors
The National Gamekeepers' Organisation represents the gamekeepers of England and Wales. It defends and promotes gamekeeping, gamekeepers and ensures high standards throughout the profession. It was founded in 1997 by a group of gamekeepers who felt that their profession was threatened by public misunderstanding and poor representation. The NGO has around 13,000 members.