Warning to dog walkers over avian-flu risk from dead birds

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DOG walkers are being warned to keep their pets on a lead and to stay away from dead birds to avoid the chance of avian flu spreading to the human population, in the latest update from States vets and Public Health.

Public Health director Professor Peter Bradley said the strain of bird flu identified in the Island was ‘known to spread to humans and other animals’.

Prof Bradley said he wanted to ‘assure Islanders that the general chances of becoming infected remain low. However, the chance and risk of infection is increased if sick or dead birds are handled without taking precautions’.

Deputy chief veterinary officer Dr Caroline Terburgh agreed: ‘Although the risk to pet dogs from avian influenza is very low, we ask all dog owners and walkers to keep their dogs on a lead where wild birds are known to gather, to reduce the chances of them coming into contact with dead or sick birds.’

She added: ‘Once a sick or dead wild bird has been reported on public land the level of risk the bird poses will be assessed. If the bird needs to be disposed of or triaged for testing, it will be collected as quickly as possible.’

But Dr Terburgh explained that ‘it might take longer than the public would expect’ for the dead birds to be collected ‘due to the PPE requirement and limited persons available for collection’.

The fate of around 500 feral geese in St Ouen’s Bay remained under review last week, following the discovery of bird flu in the flock. A discussion about whether to cull the birds continued as the States Natural Environment Department gathered more ‘scientific evidence’ to determine whether they pose a risk to other wildlife.

The UK is currently experiencing its worst-ever outbreak of bird flu and the UK Health Security Agency, led by Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, is now intensifying its response to this strain of the virus to avoid the danger of it mutating and spreading to humans.

The Health and Science Joint Committee was told by professor of virology John Bell earlier this week that bird flu would ‘only require a few mutations’ to become transmissible to humans.

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