UK Initiates A Bird Flu Research Study To Safeguard Poultry And Seabirds

Experts have launched a one-year, £1.5 million investigation program to battle the highly virulent type of bird flu that is causing chaos on UK seabirds and putting a lot of pressure on poultry farms.

With findings last week of an increasing number of seabirds – ranging from gulls and fulmars to razorbills as well as skuas – being discovered lifeless on UK shores, the possibility of the infection outbreak to/from poultry is mounting. Last winter, a total of 122 poultry cases were reported in the UK, up from 26 the year before. Moreover, more than 1100 cases of the disease have been found in wild birds, up from around 300 the previous season.

There were about 300 birds last winter, especially in comparison to about 300 the year before.

Ian Brown of the UK Animal & Plant Health Agency aims that the government-funded FluMap venture will aid experts in filling the information gap on how the H5N1 flu is progressing and how it is infecting poultry farms.

Brown claims that the shift to wild birds has changed the game since it has now become a transcontinental issue. It’s the avian version of a pandemic. It does influence food stability, and there are public health issues.

Seabirds are already under stress due to overfishing as well as global warming, so conservationists are concerned about adding to the burden.

Identifying how the diseases keep spreading from wild birds to reared chickens and ducks would be a crucial objective for the 8 universities and research institutes underneath FluMap. At 4°C, the virus can remain for 8 weeks, so feces left on grassland close to a poultry farm could even be vulnerable to infection for weeks. Other theories involve smaller birds, such as sparrows, acting as “bridging species” and transferring the virus onto poultry.

Brown believes that human activity is to blame for much of the spread. People coming from poultry farms, for example, may unwittingly bring the virus in on their shoes. Alternatively, straw stockpiles being used as bedding on chicken farms could have been introduced to wild birds previously.

While there is no method of controlling influenza in wild birds, Brown believes that minimizing infection in poultry would eventually benefit wild birds by lowering the risk of “spillback” from farmed to wild birds. The disease first appeared on chicken farms.

According to NewScientist, While the study isn’t specifically focused on bird flu vaccinations, some of the studies on the mutation of H5N1 influenza could contribute to future vaccine production, which is something the European Commission is researching.