Visitors to reefs asked to bring back dead birds for flu testing

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VISITORS to Jersey’s offshore reefs are being asked to bring dead birds back to the Island so they can be tested for avian flu.

Guidance issued by the Environment Department states that some of the birds at the Ecréhous and the Minquiers – such as terns – are at particular risk of contracting the virus given how closely they nest and how frequently they move between colonies.

In addition to reporting sightings of three or more dead wild seabirds – within close proximity of each other – to the Natural Environment team, those who ‘feel comfortable doing so’ are being asked to bring carcasses back to Jersey for testing.

A fourth case of bird flu was confirmed last month when a dead herring gull found at Long Beach tested positive for the disease.

The Environment Department guidance states: ‘In order to test for avian flu, carcasses need to be less than 24 hours old. After this time the virus cannot be detected. While the general advice remains not to touch or remove dead wild seabirds, in order to obtain fresh carcasses for testing we are asking that visitors to the offshore reefs who feel comfortable doing so safely bring carcasses back to Jersey for testing.’

Anyone handling a bird carcass will need to use personal protective equipment including a disposable overall, rubber or polyurethane boots – or disposable shoe covers – a disposable face mask and disposable gloves made of nitrile, vinyl or heavy duty rubber – but not latex.

Boxes containing the necessary equipment, as well as leak-proof bags and cable ties for handling and bagging the deceased birds, will be available on the reefs.

‘Before attempting to handle a dead bird be sure to approach with caution and confirm the bird is dead. After bagging the carcass using the inside of a plastic bag to act as a glove, turn the plastic bag back on itself and tie it securely. The bag should then be placed in a second plastic bag and tied again,’ the guidance states.

You should not attempt to collect dead birds if:

– You have any cuts or abrasions on your hands.

– You are pregnant or breastfeeding.

– You have a renal/kidney condition.

– You suffer from a severe lung condition (e.g. bronchitis; emphysema; cystic fibrosis).

– You have an immune system disorder.

– You have previously had severe allergic (anaphylactic) reactions to egg products, seasonal influenza vaccines, or anti-viral medications.

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