31 January 2017

GWCT Stresses Importance Of Official Advice Guidelines On Gamebirds & Avian Flu

Bird Flu

In response to the latest announcement on the proactive culling of 63,000 birds, including pheasants, partridges and ducks, in Lancashire, the GWCT is urging all those who are involved with gamebirds to read the official  advice guidelines on gamebirds and avian flu, which were issued recently. 

On 27 January a case of avian flu was confirmed in a flock of pheasants at a farm in Wyre, Lancashire. This case was proactively identified as part of a routine investigation of premises traced as a result of confirmation of the disease in Lancashire earlier this week. To contain the possible spread of disease, the Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed that the culling will take place.  The premises will then be cleansed and disinfected, further reducing the risk that disease can be spread to other birds.  Investigations will continue and the restrictions already placed on the sites will remain in force until cleansing and disinfection is finished and the investigation is complete.

Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

Whilst stringent biosecurity measures are put in place, it is crucial that those in the countryside remain vigilant and report any suspected cases. Guidance on how to spot avian flu and what to do if you suspect it is available from Defra here.

There are currently no restrictions on shooting activities and shoots can continue as normal. However, the GWCT advises that:  

  • Shoots near the areas that have confirmed cases should practice extra vigilance
  • Keepers of captive gamebirds (e.g. overwintering breeding flocks) must minimise the risk of contact with wild birds where indoor housing is not practicable
  • Be vigilant and look out for signs of sickness/disease/dead birds (captive, free living and wild birds) and report any concerns to the Defra Helpline (03459 33 55 77)
  • Ensure that captive flocks of 50 or more birds (chickens, ducks, partridges, pheasants, etc) are registered with Defra
  • Ensure high levels of biosecurity

Avian influenza – what is it and how is it spread?

Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds. The disease spreads from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces. Avian influenza isn’t an airborne disease nor is there evidence that any recent strain of avian influenza has been able to spread directly between people.

More information


Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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