The official risk status for bird flu entering the UK via infected migrating wild birds has been raised to “medium”.

The DEFRA-affiliated Animal and Plant Health Agency made the announcement earlier this month following an increase in reports of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 (which is more commonly referred to as “bird flu”) in mainland Europe, with dead wild birds reported in Hungary, Poland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands. However, the risk of the disease spreading to UK game premises and poultry farms remained at a “low, but heightened” level.

No reports to date of bird flu in the UK

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation urged people to report any unusual bird deaths. “It is important to emphasise that there have been no reports to date of bird flu in the UK during this cycle of the disease,” he said.

“It is only prudent, however, for gamekeepers and others who run shoots to remain vigilant, looking out for and reporting any suspicious or unexplained bird deaths in wild or kept birds. It is essential to maintain high  levels of biosecurity and watch for signs of ill health in any overwintered birds.”

As a rule of thumb, if five birds are found dead in the same location at the same time with no explainable cause, it is recommended that you report such instances to the DEFRA helpline, tel 03459 335577.