Dead swans found at a bird sanctuary in Dorset yesterday were infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu. Tests are now undeway to determine how long the virus has been present in the swans at the Abbotsbury Swannery.

Tamiflu antiviral treatment has been administered to 12 members of staff at the swannery as a precaution, although experts are keen to stress that it is very difficult for bird flu to pass to humans.

Test results are due today on two other dead swans that were discovered near Abbotsbury, and there are currently no plans to cull the other birds at the swannery.

A 15-mile control zone has been put in place and wild birds are being tested within the zone around Abbotsbury. A ban on shooting wild and game birds is also in place.

Fred Landeg, acting chief veterinary officer, said: ‘While this is unwelcome news, we have always said that Britain is at a constant low-level of risk of introduction of avian influenza. Our message to all bird keepers is that they must be vigilant, report any signs of disease immediately and practise the highest levels of biosecurity.’

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has asked all members of the public to be vigilant and report any suspected cases of bird flu by calling 08549 335 577.

Bird flu was last seen in the UK in November.

Dead swans found at the bird sanctuary in Dorset yesterday were infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu, and tests are now undeway to determine how long the virus has been present in the swans at the Abbotsbury Swannery.

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