HIGH numbers of wild birds continue to be found positive for avian influenza, according to the latest UK and European outbreak assessments.

The wild bird risk across the UK remains high, with 56 HPAI events involving 145 wild birds between 6 June and 11 July.

See also: Interested in the latest on avian influenza? Hear from the APHA’s Gordon Hickman, Bohringer Ingelheim’s Mike Clarke and Livetec’s Julian Sparrey at Poultry Network Live 2023

The European Food Safety Authority says its own surveillance has detected wild birds positive for the virus from the northernmost parts of Norway down to the Mediterranean coast.

“Seabirds have now also been found dead inland and not only along coastlines,” it added. “EFSA recommends active surveillance of the disease in wild birds, especially waterfowl, to understand the circulation and maintenance of different HPAI viruses.”

In the UK, the number of HPAI H5 detections has varied between 15-40 a week over the eight weeks to 11 July.

Black-headed gulls

“These numbers have been largely associated with mass die-offs involving black-headed gulls and terns. These events to date appear to have remained localised to aggregated (and often legally protected) colonies of birds,” Defra’s latest outbreak assessment says.

“Similar events in black-headed gulls observed across Europe do not appear to have led to any large increase in the number of infected poultry premises, however as fledging and further foraging occurs in the coming months, this is likely to provide a further opportunity for interactions between black-headed gulls and poultry.

However, the report adds: “We have seen the northward progression of cases in black-headed gulls through England, Wales and more recently up into Scotland through high-density poultry areas on a national scale with no translation into poultry outbreaks.

The risk of infection of poultry in Great Britain with stringent biosecurity is maintained at low with low uncertainty.

Defra’s latest outbreak assessment

Efsa’s most recent outbreak assessment