Warning given to travellers about avian flu as birds face 'catastrophe'

As avian influenza continues to decimate wild populations, beach goers are warned to avoid sick or dead birds that have washed up on British beaches.

Along the coastline of the United Kingdom, thousands of infected seabirds have been discovered as the largest outbreak of the normally seasonal virus persists into summer.

The RSPB has warned that the proliferation of seabird populations could become a catastrophe.

According to the United Kingdom's Health and Security Agency (UKHSA), the danger to humans is extremely minimal. On the other hand, people who visit the beach are strongly encouraged to steer clear of sick or injured birds, to keep their dogs on a leash, and to report any birds they see to the appropriate authorities.

Hundreds of dead birds suspected of being infected with avian flu have been discovered on beaches across the United Kingdom in the past month, including along the Sefton Coast, beaches near Blackpool, Stonehaven Beach in Aberdeenshire, the Isle of Man, and the south Pembrokeshire coast.

Although human infections are exceedingly uncommon, the bird flu can be transmitted through close contact with infected birds or their droppings.

James Parkin, director of nature and tourism for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, reported that local officers have collected between 700 and 800 birds thus far, primarily guillemots but also razorbills and gannets.

He described the affirmation that the region was experiencing its second wave of bird flu as the most devastating news we could have gotten.

Since October 2022, the present outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in the United Kingdom has resulted in the culling of millions of poultry.

It is estimated that at least 50,000 wild birds were dead, although this number is generally regarded as an underestimate.

The RSPB is presently conducting seabird population counts throughout the United Kingdom to determine how severely colonies have been affected.

21 of 25 UK reproductive seabird species have tested positive for the virus since 2021. RSPB policy and advocacy director Jeff Knott said there had been an "unprecedentedly large number" of seabird deaths.

Mr. Knott stated that, in addition to the impact of wind farms and bycatch by fishing vessels, avian flu could be the final straw for rare seabirds, putting them at risk of local extinction. He continued, This is a genuine crisis that could become a catastrophe.

The RSPB is now urging the devolved administrations of the United Kingdom to implement new seabird conservation strategies.

The home nation administrations of the United Kingdom reported that they were monitoring the situation and the long-term effects of avian flu on wild bird populations.

Christine Middlemiss, the chief veterinary officer for the United Kingdom, added, "More broadly, the government has taken broader measures to support seabirds through the marine wildlife bycatch mitigation initiative and will publish an English seabird Conservation and recovery pathway that will assess seabird vulnerability and the necessary actions to address it."

It will identify opportunities to strengthen our seabird populations' resistance to threats such as avian influenza, as well as climate and natural disasters, she said.