Bird Flu Widespread in Wild Birds in Iceland Skip to content

Bird Flu Widespread in Wild Birds in Iceland

By Yelena

súlur súla gannets
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. Gannets in Northeast Iceland.

Bird flu was confirmed in eight out of 15 samples that were taken from wild birds in Iceland last week, Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) announced. MAST has encouraged farmers of domestic fowl and other bird owners to take measures to prevent infection among their birds. The risk of infection to humans and other animals is, however, considered very low.

The eight positive samples processed last week were from three different regions of the country. Three were from gannets found in Njarðvík and Grindavík, Southwest Iceland; three from gannets found on Snæfellsnes peninsula, West Iceland; one from a greylag goose in Akureyri, North Iceland; and one from a great black-backed gull in Húsavík (also in North Iceland). The first positive samples among wild birds were confirmed earlier this month.

Risk of infection high for domestic fowl

“It is clear that at this time bird flu is widespread among wild birds and the risk of infection for domestic fowl is therefore great,” the notice from MAST reads. “Birds kept partially outdoors, or in buildings where infection prevention is inadequate, are most at risk of infection.”

To prevent infection, MAST encourages farmers to keep fowl indoors or under solid roofing, so that neither wild birds nor their droppings can come into contact with the domestic fowl. Farmworkers are recommended to switch shoes and put on protective clothing when attending to the birds and not use the same gear outside of where the birds are kept.

Risk of human and pet infection low

Despite the cases found among wild birds in Iceland, Brigitte Brugger, a MAST veterinarian who specialises in domestic fowl, told Vísir humans have no reason to worry about getting infected with bird flu – nor worry about their pets contracting it. “There are no indications that humans contract these viruses. There are very few known exceptions where people who have had a lot of contact with groups of infected birds have contracted [bird flu] and gotten mild symptoms, but the average person has nothing to fear at this time,” Brigitte stated.

Cat and dog owners need not worry either, according to Brigitte, though if pets bring home wild birds, owners should avoid touching them with bare hands, and should instead dispose of the birds using plastic bags or gloves.

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