A rare black swan in east London has died from bird flu amid the UK’s “largest ever” outbreak of the disease.
Gill Walker, a volunteer of four decades with the Swan Sanctuary in London told the Standard: “We have seen avian influenza in the wild before, but this is the first time we have seen it properly inside the M25.
“The whole situation is pretty devastating. In London we have lost a number of swans and we have now lost a number of cygnets, they have been particularly vulnerable.”
One resident said online: “Just found out that our local black swan who we called Bruce and resided at Hollow Ponds has died from Avian Flu. He was a beauty and will be missed.”
Another added: “He was a fabulous and sassy swan and I know everyone loved him. He will be sadly missed. He has been safely removed by the rangers. Fly high beautiful Bruce.”
Defra has confirmed cases in Epping Forest, which includes Hollow Pond, but Ms Walker said that birds had been taken away for testing in Redbridge and Havering, with the results still to be confirmed.
Speaking last week after Defra confirmed cases in Epping Forest, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, Ben Murphy, said: “The UK Health Security Agency has said that avian influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low.
“The UK is facing its largest ever outbreak of bird flu, therefore, it is absolutely vital that we work together to help stop the spread.”
According to Defra, this year’s influenza outbreak has been the largest and longest ever on record in the UK and in many parts of Europe, with infections continuing beyond the normal winter period and hitting wild birds and breeding colonies of seabirds that are not typically affected.
As of this week, all poultry and captive birds must be housed in England until further notice, following an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza in wild birds and on commercial premises.
Members of the public are advised not to touch or pick up any dead or sick birds and instead report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.