Defra has today published its epidemiology report into the case of H7N7 avian influenza in chickens on premises near Banbury, in Oxfordshire. The source of infection has not been identified, with two hypotheses under investigation. These are infection from other domestic poultry premises and from wildlife in contact with the infected premises.
The report states that wild bird activity around the infected premises was low, and rates the risk of wild ducks or other waterfowl being the source of infection as low. This reflects the time of year and the absence of any major water features nearby. Samples taken from mallards introduced to a small pond on the farm for shooting have tested negative. There has been no virus detected in other wild birds or domestic poultry in the vicinity. Further investigations of both potential sources of infection are ongoing. The RSPB continues to work closely with the British Trust for Ornithology, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and others to advise Defra on the actions required to investigate and manage the outbreak. We have curtailed RSPB fieldwork within the control zones to eliminate the very small chance that such activity could spread the disease.
Highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza has been confirmed in chickens on premises near Banbury, in Oxfordshire. The precise identity of the virus is yet to be determined. Contingency plans have been activated by Defra, and an investigation into the cause of the outbreak is underway. Given that at this time of year, wildfowl are largely absent from the area, it is highly unlikely that wild birds are connected to the outbreak.
3km and 10km Control Zones have been established around the infected premises. Inside these zones, poultry movements are restricted, and poultry within the inner 3km Zone must be housed or otherwise isolated to prevent contact with wild birds.
The RSPB is working closely with the British Trust for Ornithology, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and others to advise Defra on the actions required to investigate and manage the outbreak. We have also curtailed RSPB fieldwork within the control zones to eliminate the very small chance that such activity could spread the disease.
The RSPB will increase its surveillance of wild birds on its wetland nature reserves in Dorset, Devon and Somerset in response to the news that the avian flu virus H5N1 has been detected in mute swans from the Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset.
Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's Director of Conservation, is clear that vigilance is the first priority: 'Since H5N1 bird flu first appeared as a threat to birds in the UK, the RSPB has been at the forefront of monitoring wild birds - this vital work will continue'.
'Frustratingly we are facing yet another outbreak of bird flu, this time the circumstances are consistent with the disease arriving in wild birds. Worldwide, this virus has been transmitted via a variety of routes only one of which is through the movement of wild birds. Other include poultry movements, direct human transfer and the wild bird trade, now banned in the European Union'.
'We simply don't know how this virus has arrived in Dorset; it is unlikely to have involved the swans directly as this population is highly sedentary'.