The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation welcomes today’s news that the Government will be funding research into Avian Influenza.

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation welcomes today’s news that the Government will be funding research into Avian Influenza. 

A research consortium consisting of eight scientific organisations – headed by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) – has received £1.5 million from the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council and Defra, with the aim of developing new strategies to tackle future bird flu outbreaks. 

Much of our focus at the NGO has been on the H5N1 outbreak in France, which has affected the import of chicks and poults from Europe. However, avian flu has also been extremely prevalent in the UK this year: it is believed that the avian flu outbreak has been the largest and longest experienced in the UK.   

It is poultry and game farmers who have been most affected by this outbreak, and we have huge sympathy for their predicament. Diseases such as this cause huge damage throughout the rural economy, and outbreaks will also have an impact on those rearing and keeping birds for shoot purposes.  

The new consortium hopes to find out why the current strain is so virulent, understand more about transmission within bird populations (including between wild birds and farmed poultry), to map and model the spread of infection over time and across species, develop models to predict how the viruses will evolve and spread in the future, and to inform risk mitigation measures in birds to reduce disease burden. The consortium also aims to find out why certain birds, such as ducks, are more resistant to avian flu. 

David Pooler, Chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, said: 

“Diseases such as bird flu have a huge impact on the rural economy and all rural workers, as well as a devastating impact on shoots. Avian flu has also been identified numerous times in wild bird populations this year, particularly in coastal areas.  

"As well as looking after their own gamebirds, gamekeepers work to conserve and protect a variety of wild bird species, and we at the NGO have been saddened to see reports of such large numbers of birds dying from avian flu. Any scientific developments or research which can help put a stop to the spread of this disease will be hugely welcomed, and we are delighted that Defra has provided the consortium with this financial backing.”  


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