Bird flu found in dead seals on UK beach as public urged to stay away from animal corpses

Bird flu has been found in the carcasses of five dead seals on a beach in Cornwall.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust urged the public to steer clear of all dead animals washing up on beaches, including seals, dolphins, porpoises, whales and seabirds. There have also been cases of avian flu in a dolphin in Devon, the Trust said on its website.

“The general public is advised against approaching and handling seals in the UK, even if the animals are in danger or distress,” a statement from the trust said.

“Cornwall Wildlife Trust is also urging all members of the public to stay away from all dead animals, that wash up on our beaches, including seals, dolphins, porpoises, whales and, of course, seabirds.”

“However, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Marine Strandings Network (MSN) takes extra precautions within the project, in addition to our high health and safety standards.

“It is now mandatory for all volunteers attending strandings to wear face masks and goggles in addition to their usual PPE (disposable gloves and fully waterproof clothing to be disinfected after use) and cleaning practices.”

Cornwall Wildlife Trust also urged the public to report all dead stranded animals to the hotline.

The UK is home to 38% of the world’s gray seal population and 30% of the European harbor seal subspecies, according to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

The Trust clarified that there have never been any reports of transmission of avian flu from seals to humans, or vice versa, in the UK.

In January, avian flu was diagnosed in commercial poultry in Norfolk. A highly contagious H5N1 strain of the disease was found in a property near Fakenham, north Norfolk.

It comes after the UK Health Security Agency shared details of its plan to act in the event that avian flu becomes a Covid-style pandemic.

While there is no evidence that the H5N1 virus is an imminent threat or can spread between humans, the experts have shared their plan to “prepare for the worst.”

The virus only spreads to humans when they come into contact with sick birds, but protections are being stepped up after an 11-year-old girl died of H5N1 in Cambodia in February – and her father also tested positive.

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