Avian flu update

Key sources of information for your club or centre
13 Dec 22
Atlantic Puffin

The UK is currently experiencing its worst ever outbreak of avian flu, commonly known as bird flu.

Avian flu is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds, including water fowl and gulls.

Clubs and centres may find the local response to avian flu is led by their landlords and the exact detail of this will vary from location to location, depending on the level of risk identified by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). However, there is no legal requirement for local authorities to limit access to public areas or close rights of way, and DEFRA have stated that the countryside remains open for business. 

It is well documented that there is very little risk to humans from bird flu. However, if cases have been identified in your local area, clubs may wish to consider communicating with members to make them aware of the presence of avian flu, avoiding contact where possible, and encourage hand washing, as well as cleaning protocols to minimise the risk of transmission to other bird populations.

Please let us know if your landlord or local authority introduces restrictions, or if you are having to adapt your activities as a result of avian flu. This will enable the RYA to build a body of evidence to support venues experiencing any impact from what is increasingly becoming an annual UK-wide issue.

You can find out where there are reported cases of bird flu and a link to the latest maps depicting control zones on the GOV.UK website.

Key information for understanding avian flu is available from the government and NHS.

What to do if you find dead birds at your club?

It is worthwhile familiarising yourself with the latest DEFRA guidance on avian flu. Wild birds are susceptible to a range of diseases and not all dead birds will have been infected with avian influenza. However, you should call Defra on 03459 33 55 77 if you find:

  • One or more dead birds of prey
  • Three or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks)
  • Five or more dead birds of any species
  • You do not need to report any other wild birds found dead. Bird flu is not a notifiable disease in wild birds.

If you report a dead wild bird, DEFRA and APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) may arrange to collect it and test it. This is to help explain where bird flu is spreading in Great Britain and in which types of birds.

Please do not touch or pick up a dead or visibly sick wild bird

Further information and guidance, including reporting an outbreak, for each UK home country can be found using the links below: