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Swan DNA Result Confirms Migratory Whooper Breed

by 5m Editor
12 April 2006, at 12:00am

UK - The bird in which H5N1 avian influenza was confirmed on 6 April in Scotland has been identified as a Whooper swan by DNA 'fingerprinting' at the Central Science Laboratory.

Swan DNA Result Confirms Whooper Breed - UK - The bird in which H5N1 avian influenza was confirmed on 6 April in Scotland has been identified as a Whooper swan by DNA 'fingerprinting' at the Central Science Laboratory.

The UK's Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) have made a joint statement about the DNA results. In a separate development, Defra's Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds has written an open letter in response to concerns about the way birds would be killed to help control avian influenza.

In the letter, she stresses that all killing of birds for disease control purposes would be done by competent, trained operators working to standard operating procedures and acting under veterinary supervision. The Cellardyke swan is the first highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza case detected in a wild bird in the British Isles.

The Scottish Executive have established a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone. A wider Wild Bird Risk Area has been defined to include significant populations of wild birds in the immediate area and to give clear boundaries. It is a requirement that poultry in this area be housed.

We continue to urge members of the public to report findings of dead birds to the Defra Helpline. Defra's wild bird surveillance programme will continue in the Wild Bird Risk Area and across GB. There will be no immediate change to the measures we have put in place.

The Cellardyke swan is the first highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza case detected in a wild bird in the British Isles and our current hypothesis [1] is that the swan originated outside Great Britain. We know already that movement of swans associated with cold weather and on migration has been a feature of recent developments in Europe .

There are Whooper swan populations which winter across GB. A number of these have been tested over the past few months, all results so far have been negative. At this time of year we would expect Whooper swans to be leaving GB for their summer breeding grounds.

More information will become available in the future from the current incident and studies on epidemiological, surveillance and laboratory tests that are now in progress worldwide.

We continue to urge members of the public to report findings of dead birds to the Defra Helpline. Our extensive wild bird surveillance programme will continue in the Wild Bird Risk Area and across GB. There will be no immediate change to the measures we have put in place.

This is the scientific approach of setting out the scientific view of the proponent, but recognizing the uncertainty and what needs to be done to reduce it.

Additional Information

Whoopers are migratory swans there are two main breeding populations - those from Iceland and those from Scandinavia and northern Russia. They winter in the UK and parts of continental Europe.

Analysis of the DNA from the dead swan from Cellardyke, Fife, shows a near perfect match (1 base different out of 358) with DNA sequence obtained from 2 whooper swans.

Guidance on handling and disposing of dead garden and wild birds

The advice given here applies in all circumstances where members of the public may come across a dead bird. If you find a dead swan, goose or duck or three or more dead wild, or garden birds together in the same place, please report this to Defra, via the Defra Helpline on 08459 33 55 77.

The current Defra helpline opening hours are Monday to Friday 6.00am to 10.00pm and Saturday and Sunday 6.00am to 10.00pm. They may wish to have the birds examined for signs of specific diseases. They will advise you on what action you should take. If the dead bird is a single, small garden, or wild bird then you do not need to call Defra.

You should:

  • leave it alone, or
  • follow the guidelines below for disposal

People should follow some simple hygiene precautions should minimise the risk of infection. It is hard for people to catch avian influenza from birds and the following simple steps are also effective against avian influenza. If you have to move a dead bird

  • Avoid touching the bird with your bare hands

  • If possible, wear disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling (if disposable gloves are not available

  • Place the dead bird in a suitable plastic bag, preferably leak proof. Care should be taken not to contaminate the outside of the bag

  • Tie the bag and place it in a second plastic bag

  • Remove gloves by turning them inside out and then place them in the second plastic bag. Tie the bag and dispose of in the normal household refuse bin.

  • Hands should then be washed thoroughly with soap and water

  • If disposable gloves are not available, a plastic bag can be used as a make-shift glove. When the dead bird has been picked up, the bag can be turned back on itself and tied. It should then be placed in a second plastic bag, tied and disposed of in the normal household waste

  • Alternatively, the dead bird can be buried, but not in a plastic bag

  • Any clothing that has been in contact with the dead bird should be washed using ordinary washing detergent at the temperature normally used for washing the clothing.

  • Any contaminated indoor surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned with normal household cleaner.

Source: Defra - 12th April 2006

5m Editor