THE Dudley borough has been hit by an outbreak of avian flu, it has now been confirmed after dead birds were found at a number of parks.

Members of the public are urged not to touch any sick or dead wild birds as the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Animal and Plant Health Agency has today confirmed avian influenza A(H5N1) is affecting wild bird populations in the borough.

Dead wildfowl including Canada geese and swans have been reported in a number of locations including Mary Stevens Park, Withymoor, King George VI Park in Kingswinford and Himley Hall.

Although the risk to human health is considered very low, people are urged not to touch any sick live birds or bird carcasses, and infection control measures may be necessary if they do.

Kate James, UKHSA West Midlands Lead Health Protection Practitioner specialising in avian influenza, said: “The risk to the public from this strain of avian flu is very low, however it is possible for humans to catch the virus, so it is vital that people do not touch any sick or dead birds; or have contact with their droppings, eggs or bedding.

“As a precaution, anyone who has not worn appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) while in contact with a sick or dying bird and its bedding, in an area where the infection has been confirmed, will require close monitoring and follow up with UKHSA.”

Councillor Ian Bevan, Dudley’s cabinet member for public health at Dudley Council, added: “We have been liaising with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) West Midlands over the last couple of weeks, for guidance and support.

“As a precaution, we made the decision to close areas of Mary Stevens Park and the pool at Himley Hall & Park until we knew more.

"Now avian influenza has been confirmed in the borough, and the strain we are dealing with is low risk to human health, we have revised our restrictions and will reopen areas that had been closed. However we will continue to review the situation.

“I urge members of the public to follow the guidance and not touch or let pets near to sick or dead birds.”

Any dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, should be reported to Dudley Council Plus on 0300 555 2345.

People are asked to report any sick or injured birds to the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.