Following the report by the French authorities that a dead wild duck in Lyon, France may have died from the highly pathogenic H5N1 AI virus Defra has consulted with ornithological and meteorological experts and with key industry stakeholders. We have concluded that this is a new development which increases the likelihood that H5N1 may be found in the UK. However, we believe that the existing precautionary measures that we have in place remain sufficient and appropriate for the time being.
'We understand that the French authorities have not yet identified the specific strain but they are reporting that it is highly pathogenic and bears close similarities to H5N1 Asian strain.
'The expert ornithologists have advised that ducks from the Lyon region do not normally fly to the UK at this time of the year. Yet we know that the pochard duck uses the East Atlantic flyway, which is the same migratory path under which the UK lies.
'We have existing robust surveillance measures in place and have taken over 3500 samples from wild birds, which so far have not detected H5N1 in the UK. Nor has AI been found in domestic poultry in the European Union. Surveillance will continue at a high level and the general public can play its part here by reporting to the Defra helpline on 08459 335577 any unusual wild bird deaths. We will continue to monitor the developing situation carefully.'
Extensive guidance to bird keepers on how to maximise biosecurity is already available. We urge all poultry keepers to follow this advice.
More information on Defra's response to avian influenza can be found here.