Long-term approach on avian influenza is best, Scottish study finds

The study analyses the outbreak among wild birds since 2021
calendar icon 3 May 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Long-term conservation measures will be the most effective tool against avian influenza 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.

Ongoing challenge

Avian influenza 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 influenza has affected Scotland's wild birds so far.

Once avian influenza 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," said Alastair MacGugan, NatureScot Wildlife Manager. "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."

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