Dead bird flu swan found partly eaten
THE dead swan suspected of having killer bird flu had been partly eaten by the time it was found, sparking fears other animals may have been infected.
The revelation came from Scotland's chief veterinary officer as it emerged three more dead swans found in Fife are being tested for the disease.
Tests were continuing today to discover whether the swan, found on the harbour slipway at Cellardyke in Fife, had the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu which has resulted in the death of 100 people and killed millions of birds around the world.
A 1.8-mile (3km) "protection zone" has been established around the village, along with a "surveillance zone" of six miles (10km).
And police checkpoints have been set up on roads leading out of Cellardyke to stop any vehicle containing poultry or poultry products leaving the area. Pet-owners in the restricted area were being advised to keep cats indoors and exercise their dogs on a lead.
Meetings were taking place today to consider the possible extension of precautions to the coastline on the Edinburgh side of the Forth.
Chief veterinary officer Dr Charles Milne told a press conference today that the swan's carcase was decomposed and had been partially eaten.
But he said there was "no evidence" it was by domestic animals and it was "pure speculation" to suppose seagulls were responsible.
He said: "We have controls in the protection zone. All measures are in place to protect pets."
And he said there was no reason to believe the infection was widespread.
Dr Milne said in recent months more than 1000 wild birds and 400 swans had been tested, all with negative results.
But he said surveillance of wild birds would now be stepped up.
Asked about extending measures from Fife to the Lothian side of the Forth, he said: "Clearly that is something we need to look at. I am meeting with ornithologists and experts on that. We really need to get a grip on what the risk is."
Dr Milne said indications were the dead swan could have been a native mute swan rather than a migratory bird.
Meanwhile, a Scottish Executive spokeswoman confirmed three more swan carcases were being tested.
She said: "Three other birds have been found in Fife. They are being tested as a matter of routine. We don't think they are connected at this stage."
City council chiefs today warned members of the public not to go near any dead birds.
A spokesman said: "At the moment the restrictions don't apply to Edinburgh because the bird was found on the other side of the Forth.
"But the advice to the public remains the same. If they do come across a dead bird, they should not touch it or approach it. They should call the police, who will alert the relevant authorities.
"There have been a number of dead seagulls found along the foreshore. Some of these have been checked, but there have been not traces of any flu pathogens."
And independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said people should be advised to keep away from swans at favourite beauty spots such as St Margaret's Loch in Holyrood Park and Blackford Pond.
She said: "This disease can be spread through faeces. People should be told not to take kids to visit wild swans at places like St Margaret's Loch.
"It is a small precaution. If my grandchildren were still toddlers I would not be taking them to see the ducks and swans."
The dead swan was first reported after 5pm last Wednesday and collected the following day before samples went to the national testing laboratory in Weybridge on Friday. The result confirming bird flu was received yesterday afternoon and the restrictions were imposed at 11.35pm last night.
Dr Milne rejected criticisms that the process had taken too long and could have allowed the infection to spread. He said: "The procedures were followed fully and the timeline could not have been tighter."
He said he knew of no poultry farms within the protection zone but there were at least nine poultry premises within the larger surveillance zone.
Scotland's last outbreak of bird flu was at Montrose in 1959.
If the deadly H5N1 strain is confirmed, the UK will be the 13th EU country hit by the virus since the current outbreak began.
And further measures could be imposed. Experts may decide to order poultry farmers throughout the UK to take their animals indoors.
Dr Milne said the advice to consumers was the properly prepared poultry and poultry products were still safe to eat.
The owner of a commercial poultry farm within the bird flu surveillance zone today criticised the official response to the scare.
Donald Peddie has a flock of 22,000 chickens in barns and battery sheds producing around 20,000 eggs a week at Kilduncan Poultry Farm at Kingsbarns, just under six miles from Cellardyke,
But he said he first heard about the bird flu discovery watching TV last night. He said he was "obviously worried" about a suspected outbreak.
Mr Peddie said: "The Veterinary Office phoned me at 8am this morning. They were checking that their restrictions were up to date.
"I think there are questions about how the information came out. I would have expected to be contacted a bit earlier.
"This is obviously a bit worrying. I was not expecting any discovery to be this close."
As soon as he was alerted by officials, Mr Peddie said he put into place antiseptic cleansing devices for his four-strong staff at the entrance to each chicken barn.
Workers will now clean themselves each time they enter or leave a barn.
Mr Peddie, whose family have farmed in Fife for 40 years, said his birds were checked at least once a day and he had so far found no dead chickens.
"I am more worried about if customers start to become frightened of buying eggs," he added.
"The unanimous verdict of all the experts is that eggs are completely safe as long as you take the usual measures."
There were no specific movement restrictions outside the 3km restriction zone, Mr Peddie said.
He added that he was not planning to move any live poultry for at least two weeks.
Allan Brown, who runs the Lothians and Fife Swan Study Group, said there were about 550 swans in the region and up to 200 in the Capital.
But he claimed those in Edinburgh generally did not move from their nesting areas of St Margaret's Loch, Inverleith pond, and Musselburgh.
The majority of swans in Lothians and Fife are residents Mute swans, there are also about 150 migratory Whooper swans.
Mr Brown said: "The birds in Edinburgh tend not to be that mobile."
He added: "We do get deaths but most involve birds flying power lines or being run over by cars. We have not heard of any suspicious or mass deaths of swans recently."
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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