Nine Stanley Park swans died of bird flu, Government investigation confirms
Nine swans found dead in Blackpool's famous Stanley Park last week died from avian flu, the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs has said - just a few weeks after the UK was put on red alert for the contagious disease.
The first deceased swan was discovered at Stanley Park on Sunday, November 15. Other dead swans, plus three sick ones, were recovered from the park in the following days.
While the disease often proves fatal for birds, Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low, and the Food Standards Agency said that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk.
The RSPCA have been in regular attendance at the park, off West Park Drive, this week.
Yesterday afternoon, Blackpool Council was informed by DEFRA that a number of the swans tested were positive for avian influenza H5N8.
A council spokesman said: "We have been advised that the park can remain open to the public as the risk is very low, however, an area around the lake will be zoned off as a precaution."
A number of suspected cases of Avian Influenza have been reported across England this month. Dying swans were found on the Ulverston canal in Cumbria, while 25 dead swans were recovered in Worchester.
There has also been a number of confirmed reports of bird flu in wild birds, including geese and swans, in the Netherlands and northern Germany in recent weeks. These wild birds are all on the waterfowl flyway from breeding grounds in western Russia, where the H5N8 strain was reported in poultry in mid-October.
Bird keepers, including those with domestic poultry should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.
John Blackledge, Director for Community and Environmental Services at Blackpool Council said: “The welfare and care of all the birds at Stanley Park lake is of paramount importance to us. The lake and the wildlife at Stanley Park is a huge part of our award winning park and one of the many reasons why it is so well loved by locals and visitors alike.
“I am deeply saddened that so many of our beautiful swans have died and I know many local people will be too.
“We are working closely with the RSPCA and DEFRA to ensure all appropriate measures are put in place and I want to thank all the officers involved for acting so quickly and reporting this to the relevant authorities."
Chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss said: “Following a number of confirmed cases of avian influenza in England we have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease.
“It is important that bird keepers ensure they are doing all they can to maintain and strengthen biosecurity measures on their premises to prevent further outbreaks.
The public are being asked to avoid direct contact with wild dead or dying birds and to report wild dead or dying birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.