Avian influenza: how you can help identify cases and reduce the spread

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been in force across Great Britain since 3 November 2021. This is designed to ensure the safety of birds and to stop the spread of Avian Influenza H5N1. There are currently 92 cases in England, with recent cases being confirmed in the South West.

In order to protect our islands’ bird population we are asking residents and visitors to keep an eye out for signs of avian influenza on the islands and to report them through the appropriate channels.

If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese, or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77). Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find. For further information please see the government’s avian influenza advice page.

If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 0300 200 301.

How to spot avian influenza

Avian influenza can be fatal to birds. Signs of this are:

  • sudden and rapid increase in number of birds found dead
  • several birds affected in the same shed or air space
  • swollen head
  • closed and excessively watery eyes
  • lethargy and depression
  • recumbency and unresponsiveness
  • incoordination and loss of balance
  • head and body tremoring
  • drooping of the wings and/or dragging of legs
  • twisting of the head and neck
  • swelling and blue discolouration of comb and wattles
  • haemorrhages on shanks of the legs and under the skin of the neck
  • loss of appetite of marked decrease in feed consumption
  • sudden increase or decrease in water consumption
  • respiratory distress such as gaping (mouth breathing), nasal snicking (coughing sound), sneezing, gurgling, or rattling
  • fever or noticeable increase in body temperature
  • discoloured or loose watery droppings
  • cessation or marked reduction in egg production

The UK Health Security Agency has said that avian influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to general public’s health is very low. In addition the Food Standards Agency has said that, on the basis of the current scientific evidence, avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

If you have any questions about avian influenza, please contact the Environmental Health team by emailing environmentalhealth@scilly.gov.uk or calling 07780 585 139.

Publishing date: 
Thursday, 21 April, 2022