An unprecedented outbreak is affecting wild birds, including sea birds, in Europe and the UK.
Many thousands of seabirds, including northern gannets, have already died in their colonies and reports of dead birds show the outbreak is increasingly spreading southwards and is now in colonies in the English Channel.
This week, more than 1,000 sandwich terns died in a breeding colony in northern France near Calais, representing 10% of the French breeding population. And dead birds have also been reported on beaches across the UK, including Cornwall.
States Veterinary Officer David Chamberlain warned that there were likely to be dead birds appearing on local shores soon.
‘It is possible there will be large numbers of dead birds washing up on the beaches and these may be carrying the virus,’ he said.
‘The risk to the public is low when those in close contact with the birds take appropriate precautions. The general public and dogs must avoid contact with any dead birds that are washed up on the beaches.’
Mr Chamberlain said the situation was being closely monitored. Local ornithologists were also keeping an eye on local seabird colonies from a distance.
There has been evidence that the bird flu strain also affects puffins, which are in local waters until August.
Gannets can also be affected. More than 8,000 pairs of northern gannets – about 1% of the world’s population – breed on two rocky outcrops off Alderney and stay in the Bailiwick until the end of September.
There has been no evidence so far of infection spreading from dead sea birds to poultry.
Poultry keepers are being advised to register their details with the States vets so they can be kept up to date.
An order that would have stopped local owners taking their birds to the summer shows was made in early February, but revoked last month, although they were urged to continue taking biosecurity measures.
The first event at which local poultry is expected to be on display is at the Vintage Agricultural Show, due for the first weekend of August.
‘This is good news,’ said Guernsey Poultry Club secretary and founder member Jeanette Brache, who said that members continued to be vigilant.
Assuming there are no further developments, birds will be taken to the island’s summer shows, too.
n Registration forms for poultry owners can be found at https://gov.gg/animalhealth.
n Anyone finding a dead or sick bird on the beach in Guernsey is asked to contact the States veterinary officer on 221161 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Out of hours, people should call the GSPCA on 527261.
Alderney residents should call the island’s Animal Welfare Society on 07966 503694.