Avian flu confirmed at Martin Mere Wetland Centre

The centre has confirmed that it will be open as usual and that no cull or lockdown will be put in place.

The centre has confirmed that it will be open as usual and that no cull or lockdown will be put in place.

Bird flu has been confirmed at a popular North West wetland centre as cases of the avian disease spread across the country.

The disease was detected in a single Greylag Goose late on Friday, 3 February at the Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Burscough.

The centre has confirmed that it will be open as usual and that no cull or lockdown will be put in place.

Peter Morris, spokesman for Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust said: “This is not a strain of bird flu that has ever transmitted to humans.

“It has spread across Britain from Europe, we’re simply detecting it as it passes through wild birds in the North West. This isn’t a case of anyone closing or culling anything.

“We’re not actually seeing unusual numbers of wild bird deaths at this time of year, just a handful among tens of thousands of birds you can still see at Martin Mere. So it’s largely business as usual for visitors and we are open every day as always."

Bosses at Martin Mere have taken preventative measures at the centre to ensure that the disease does not inadvertently spread to neighbouring bird farms.

This has included placing disinfectant mats at all entrances and exits, restricting vehicle movements on and off the reserve and taking all practical steps to separate wild birds from their collection of captive wildfowl.

The news comes as a popular local poultry show, The Longridge and District Fanciers Society 49th North of England open show, scheduled for 18 February was cancelled due to the national avian flu outbreak.

“It’s a great blow, particularly as the infection has come in through migratory birds and has not hit our poultry flocks hardly at all,” said Allan Proctor, Fanciers former president and well-known White Wyandotte breeder from Ribchester.

Show secretary Andrew Richardson said: “Due to the outbreaks, all local shows have had to be cancelled until at least the end of February.

“Next year is our 15th show, so we have a plan to try and hold this year’s event at short notice in April but do not hold out much hope.

“What we do hope is that all the migratory birds go home and leave the summer agricultural shows in peace.”

Mr Procter blames the outbreak on the influx of imported wildfowl - teal, widgeon, waterfowl - plus thousands of pheasants from Japan and wild birds of prey.

“They have definitely come in with it - no-one I know with any hens has had it and I feel that, if necessary, vaccination would also be a way of beating it.

“I just hope the show can take place, even though the booking is for Saturday April 1.”

The cancellation follows an outbreak in nearby Preesall.

The disease was discovered in a pheasant flock at HyFly game hatcheries, based in Pilling Lane, Preesall.

A DEFRA spokesman said: “To reduce the risk of bird flu spreading from bird to bird there is currently a legal requirement for all poultry keepers – even those who just keep a few birds as pets – to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds. There is also a ban on poultry gatherings.

"Bird flu is also transmitted via the environment, for example in wild bird droppings, and it is vital that keepers practice strict biosecurity. This means taking precautions such as putting up netting, keeping food and water inside and disinfecting footwear and equipment after contact with birds."

Two cases of H5N8 avian flu have now been confirmed in wild birds and a further two cases in farm birds in Preesall since the start of the year in Lancashire.

Nationally, there have been 11 cases of bird flu confirmed in wild birds and two at farms in Lincolnshire since the start of the year.