Bird flu crisis triggers warning

Bird flu crisis triggers warning

Members of the public are being reminded not to touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds, as a highly deadly form of the disease avian influenza - or bird flu - becomes worryingly widespread in Britain's wild seabird population.

Avian influenza has become a serious problem this summer and there are high levels of morbidity and mortality, particularly in seabirds around the coast. In order to help limit the spread of this terrible disease, the Government and other organisations are having to euthanase many affected birds, and some wildlife rescue centres have temporarily closed their doors to high risk wild bird admissions.

The impact of bird flu is also affecting what support we can provide on the ground.

As part of its measures to help stop the spread, we're advising the public:

  • Not to bring sick birds into our branches or centres as staff will not be able to admit them due to the potential risk they could pose to the animals already in the charity's care.
  • Not to touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds (if you have already touched the bird, please wash your hands immediately, along with any surfaces you may have made contact with).
  • Report any dead birds to Defra (03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7); more advice is available on the Defra website;
  • To help baby birds, please see our online advice;
  • Check our advice online if you find a healthy young bird found out of its nest: please don't call us as in most cases they may not need help;
  • If you do call us for help, please bear with us, as our rescue teams are under a lot of pressure.

Our vet Jocelyn Toner said: "Bird flu is having a devastating impact on wild birdlife across the country and our teams have been busy responding to calls about sick birds and doing their best to seek help for as many as possible.

"It's been devastating for our volunteers, vets and staff - who work for the RSPCA because they love animals - to see so many birds perishing due to this awful disease.

"Now it's important that we follow the Government's advice and act to try to slow the spread and keep as many of our birds as safe as possible."

What birds are affected?

Bird lovers can continue to feed garden birds. Defra and the UKHSA advises that common garden bird species which are not showing signs of sickness can be handled because although avian flu remains a problem in the UK, the risk of avian flu in common garden bird species such as finches, sparrows, tits, warblers, robins, wrens, swallows as well as pigeons is very low.
The spread of avian influenza is having a massive impact on the welfare of birds across the country. It's a deadly disease as there is no cure and it spreads very fast through certain wild bird populations, as has been seen recently around coastlines with, for example, multiple deaths of sea birds such as gulls, auks, terns, cormorants, shearwaters, gannets and fulmars.  

Our primary role is to alleviate the suffering of animals in distress. We will always try to respond to calls about sick and injured animals where possible and deal with them compassionately and appropriately.