Wales politics

Bird flu alert as duck in Llanelli found to be infected

Wigeon
Image caption The infected duck - a wigeon like the one pictured - was found dead

The first finding of an infectious strain of avian flu in a UK wild bird has been confirmed in Carmarthenshire.

The H5N8 strain found in a wild duck at an estuary near the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) Llanelli Wetland Centre is the same which hit a turkey farm in Lincolnshire last week.

The centre said it had closed "as a precautionary measure".

Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths said the risk to humans was "very low" and poultry was safe to eat.

The Welsh Government said it was the first time the H5N8 strain had been found in a wild bird in the UK.

It was described as "extremely concerning" by the Welsh Conservatives which called on the government to ensure safety measures were in place.

Restrictions were imposed across Britain to keep birds indoors after the disease came to light across Europe, the Middle East and north Africa.

On Tuesday, the measures were tightened to ban any indoor gatherings of birds at events such as livestock fairs, auctions and bird shows.

Ms Griffiths said: "This finding is not unexpected and follows calls for bird keepers to be more vigilant for signs of the disease. It is likely that more cases will be confirmed.

"There have been no reports of human infection from the H5N8 strain and the risk to human health is very low.

"The Food Standards Agency has also confirmed it is safe to eat poultry meat, such as turkey, goose and chicken."

Image copyright WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre
Image caption The wetland centre in Llanelli opened in 1991

In a statement on Thursday confirming its temporary closure, WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre said: "This is a concern for local birds - not humans.

"This is not a strain of bird flu that has ever transferred to people.

"The finding is not unexpected as the disease has already been found across Europe.

"Like other organisations across the country, we have been keeping a close eye out for any signs of the disease in birds this winter.

"We will remain closed while we increase surveillance among wild birds on our reserve and our collection of zoo birds, and put in place any measures necessary to help protect them."

Welsh Conservative spokesman for rural affairs, Paul Davies AM, said: "If it is allowed to spread then it could have a devastating impact on poultry farming across Wales.

"The Welsh Government must ensure that all farms provide details of their flocks to the poultry register and are appraised of all relevant safety measures in the event of an outbreak."

Chief Veterinary Officer Christianne Glossop urged people to report any sightings of dead waterfowl, or groups of at least five dead wild birds of other species in the same location, to the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

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