What does the finding of a dead wild swan with H5N1 mean for animal health?

The Scottish Executive have put in place a 3km Protection Zone and 10 km Surveillance Zone around the area where the swan was found, requiring certain biosecurity measures, the housing of birds, and movement restrictions. Poultry keepers within the Wild Bird Risk Area (which stretches from near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire down to the Forth Road Bridge) are also required to house their birds. All bird keepers, throughout the UK, should continue their efforts to maintain high levels of biosecurity, and develop their plans to bring their birds indoors should it become necessary.

What does this mean for human health?

H5N1 does not pass easily from birds to people. People can become infected but rarely are. Where they have caught H5N1 in other countries it is because of close and prolonged contact with infected poultry or poultry products. There is no evidence that H5N1 has acquired the ability to pass easily from person to person. Further Information.

Is it safe to eat chicken and eggs?

On the basis of current scientific evidence, advice from the Food Standards Agency is that avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

What do I do with my cat/dog?

As a precautionary approach, Defra recommend that if you live within 3km of the area where avian influenza has been confirmed (the protection zone) pet owners should aim to keep their cats indoors and exercise their dogs on a lead. This is for the protection of your animals and is not for public health purposes. In all other areas you should continue as normal and your pets are not at risk. Further Information.

What do the restricted areas mean in practice - can I walk on footpaths?

Though Ministers have powers to restrict access to premises in protection zones, in the current situation there is no need for people to automatically reduce their visits to the countryside. Even if the disease spreads we expect there to be little need to restrict access to land by closing footpaths or other rights of way, or land to which there is a general right of access. Further Information.

What should I look out for? Who should I report suspicious bird deaths to?

All dead birds found in the Wild Bird Risk Area should be reported to the Defra Helpline (08459 33 55 77) - Monday-Friday 6.00am to 10.00pm and Saturday-Sunday 6.00am to 10.00pm. In the rest of the country, if you find one or more dead swan(s)/wild fowl (ducks and geese); more than 3 dead birds of the same species or more than 5 dead birds of different species, in the same place, you should contact the Defra Helpline. You will be asked for details of your finding and its location.

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