The UK and European authorities have warned of wild gulls contributing to a rise of avian influenza. Black-headed Gulls (which breed inland), could increase the risk of poultry contracting avian flu in July to August 2023. This hypothesis occurred after The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) latest outbreak assessment.
In the first three months of 2023, the total number of HPAI outbreaks across the continent has dropped. The figures of outbreaks in 2023 are lower in comparison to the 2022 results, and despite the numbers lowering, wild gulls are strongly believed to be a source for spreading avian influenza.
Findings from a recent case in Nottinghamshire shows that avian influenza was detected in gulls near the River Idle in Newington, close to where the outbreak occurred. Trading Standards Officers had confirmed that 5 birds were infected with avian flu. People were warned not to touch any sick or dead birds that were discovered in the area, and a cabinet member for communities, John Cottee said “The risk of the disease transferring from birds to humans is considered to be very low. However, it is important that people do not touch any sick or dead birds.”
Professor Ian Brown, the Scientific Services Director at the Animal and Plant Health Agency, noted that the transformation of the H5N1 strain of avian flu, has made it easier for gulls to be a carrier of the disease, stating that “Prior to this current H5N1 [virus] gulls have always been known to be susceptible to flus, but they do seem to be potentially a more regular feature in terms of this virus than they have been in the past.”
Brown also stated that “There are some hosts in the wild that we’ve learned – things like gulls, so gulls are ubiquitous, they’re found around freshwater areas, they’re found near poultry farms.”
Whilst it is yet to be determined whether gulls can contribute to another wave of avian influenza, it is important that poultry is protected from being in contact with infected animals who can carry the disease. This can be done by putting effective biosecurity measures in place.
How to protect your poultry from avian influenza
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