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Nature / Government confirms more local cases of avian flu in wild birds

The dying long-tailed skua at Clumie on Monday. Photo: Hugh Harrop/Shetland Wildlife

THREE more cases of avian flu have been confirmed in wild birds in Shetland.

It comes as concern for the health of Shetland’s wild bird population continues to grow with many more reports of dead skuas and gannets found at locations across the isles.

Last night, wildlife photographer and tour guide Hugh Harrop shared a photo of a dying long-tailed skua at Clumlie, a rare visitor to the isles.

Dr Glen Tyler of NatureScot confirmed that the symptoms displayed by the long tailed skua indicated that it had died of avian flu.

It will be sent together with other samples to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey, for analysis.

Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed that a great black back gull, a gannet and another gull which had been sent to the laboratory a few weeks ago have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1.

Dr Tyler said he was seeking clarification from APHA because the laboratory’s report didn’t align 100 per cent with the bird samples sent south.

This follows on from confirmation by the Scottish Government on 3 May that four eider ducks collected on 20 April had died of bird flu.

“There are a lot more reports of dead birds from Unst to Fair Isle, gannets seem to be washing ashore in places depending on the wind direction,” the marine ornithology adviser said.

The risk from avian flu to humans is considered to be low, but people are advised not to touch or handle any dead or sick birds.

Dr Tyler added that not every dead bird reported is necessarily a case of avian flu.

“People are very aware now and if they see a dead bird, they may assume it is a case of bird flu and it may not be,” he said.

Avian flu is a notifiable animal disease. Anyone finding dead wild birds and suspecting avian flu as the cause of death should report this to the Defra helpline at 03459 33 55 77.

Further information can be found here.

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