New case of avian flu detected in deceased black-headed gull

Black-headed gull ((Chroicocephalus ridibundus). Photo is illustrative.
Black-headed gull ((Chroicocephalus ridibundus). Photo is illustrative. Source: Adrian Pingstone/Wikimedia Commons

A fresh case of avian flu has been detected in Estonia after a dead black-headed gull was found to be infected with the virus. The case is the first involving a wild bird in over a year.

Should wild birds such as Black headed gulls (Estonian: Naerukajakas, literally "laughing gull") become infected with avian flu, they will present a major threat to domesticated poultry. In the case of gulls, many of their breeding colonies are located inland, meaning they could come into contact with poultry more than might seem likely at first.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture and Food Board (PTA) has stated that avian flu is continuing to propagate in Estonia.

The disease causes mass morbidity and mortality in birds domestic and wild; in the event of outbreaks, all birds even suspected of being infected are destroyed, while the PTA stresses the need for poultry farmers and all those who keep birds of any kind to follow the correct bio-security guidelines.

This means poultry keepers must ensure that their stock does not come into contact with wild birds, at any time.

To accomplish this, birds must be watered and fed indoors or under cover, with netting, a roof etc. used to achieve separation. 

Intentionally bringing wild birds into areas where poultry or other farmed birds are housed is expressly forbidden.

The last known wild bird case of avian flu was detected last year, when a swan in Haapsalu was found to be carrying the virus, while earlier this year, a mass outbreak of the disease hit a Rapla County poultry farm.

Further afield, avian flu is rife in Europe more generally, while both Latvia and Lithuania have reported seagull deaths relating to the disease.

Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

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