Healthcare Blog

Infected Swan Found In Scotland May Have Floated In From Abroad

March 19, 2017

Scientists have identified the H5N1 infected swan, found in Scotland on March 29,as a 'Whooper Swan', not indigenous to the UK. As this type of swan originates from outside the British Isles, experts say it is possible that the dead animal may have floated in from abroad. If this is the case, this is good news for the United Kingdom, as the chances of bird flu infection existing elsewhere in the country are considerably lower.

Authorities do not know where the bird got sick, in the UK or abroad.

The Whooper Swan migrates to the UK in the winter from Scandinavia, northern Russia and Iceland.

Since March 29 no other birds in the UK have tested positive to H5N1 infection.

According to preliminary tests, the swan had a virus which was virtually identical to the one found in northern Germany. British ornithologists say there is a good chance this isolated case may be just that, an isolated case - a one-off.

There has been widespread criticism by the UK press and other media services about the lax response to the initial reporting of the dead swan in Scotland. A lady saw the swan, called the police, who did not seem to know what to do and told her to call some animal charity. She eventually called Defra (the people you are supposed to call) in the evening. It was not till lunchtime the next day that anybody turned up to have a look at the dead animal. Government ministers, in response to public pressure, say they are 'reviewing response times'.

The press in the UK, especially the tabloids, tend to jump on any mistakes made by anybody in the public eye. Sports heroes, revered by everyone one day, can be pulled to pieces by the press for days and weeks. It is not uncommon for cabinet ministers to have to resign, eventually, because of the never-ending hounding by the press. They are severe and unforgiving if they catch a whiff of anything that does not seem right. If further cases of bird flu infection are found, the media will be hounding the authorities every step of the way.

Western Europe, unlike parts of Asia and Africa where bird flu is also present, does not have a lot of backyard poultry. Most poultry exists mainly in commercial farms. What has grown over the last ten years in the UK, and many other parts of Western Europe, is the market for 'free range eggs and chicken'. Free range means the chickens run around freely in fields. Outbreaks of bird flu could mean the housing (bringing them indoors) of these free range animals.

(Free range chickens = Run around freely in fields.
Battery chickens = Live in tiny little cages indoors)

According to the National Farmers' Union (UK), poultry sales in the UK are holding up.