Edinburgh Infectious Diseases
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Long-term approach on bird flu is best, study finds

Lasting conservation measures targeted at most vulnerable species are recommended in a report for the Scottish Government.

Long-term conservation measures will be the most effective tool against avian flu in wild birds in Scotland, according to a report involving Roslin expertise.

The study, published by Scottish government agency NatureScot, analyses the unprecedented flu outbreak among wild birds since 2021. It provides advice to support the work of Scotland's Avian Flu Task Force, which co-ordinates the national response to the crisis.

Experts from the University of Edinburgh, including the Roslin Institute, contributed to the report.

Read the NatureScot report on the H5N1 outbreak in wild birds 2020-2023

Ongoing challenge

Bird flu is expected to continue to be an issue among wild birds into the 2023 nesting season and beyond, the study found.

The most effective solutions will likely be long-term conservation measures for birds that are particularly susceptible, accompanied by enhanced disease surveillance, demographic monitoring, and continued research, it says.

The report also looks at the effectiveness and benefits of short-term measures and provides a picture of how avian flu has affected Scotland's wild birds so far.

Once avian flu is present in a wild bird population, it is very difficult to control or reduce it, the study found.

Measures such as carcass removal or reducing human activity across sites, for example, whether for recreation or monitoring, are unlikely to significantly reduce the impact of an outbreak on wild birds.

Although there’s no silver bullet to solve this complicated dilemma, this report will be a great help as the Avian Influenza Task Force plan action to reduce the effect of avian flu on Scotland’s important populations of wild birds. This is an utmost priority for our partners and ourselves, as the geographic scale, range of species of wild birds affected, and severity of impacts may threaten the very survival of some species.

Alastair MacGuganNatureScot Wildlife Manage

** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **

Related links

NatureScot report

Scotland’s Avian Flu Taskforce

Image credit: Kristin Snippe on Unsplash