Scientists say the risk of human-to-human transmission is low
The Queen's swan marker says it's the first time the virus has hit the Thames region
Bird flu has killed at least 30 swans from Queen Elizabeth’s flock, with more expected to succumb to the disease, UK officials say.
“We are currently at the river recovering bodies of the dead swans,” said David Barber, the official responsible for the Queen’s swans. “This is the first time in my 24 years as Swan Marker that bird flu has hit the Thames – naturally, we are all very upset about the situation.”
An alert was initially sent to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) by Swan Support, a rehabilitation center, after they noticed several of the animals near the Queen’s residence at Windsor Castle, west of London, appeared to be ill.
“We found a few dead swans, but we find dead swans all year round,” Wendy Hurmon, director of operations at Swan Support, told CNN. “But then we noticed that some of the other swans did not look very well and we thought ‘something is not right here.’”
After seven swans died in the Queen’s flock, which is actually called a bevy, their remains were analyzed and five were confirmed to have the disease, DEFRA said.
On January 18, DEFRA introduced an Avian Flu Prevention Zone that makes it a legal requirement for anyone who keeps a bird to follow strict protocol and advice to prevent the spread of the disease.
“We are continuing to see cases of bird flu in wild birds across the country which is why, if you keep birds, it is absolutely essential that you do all you can to protect them and help prevent the spread of the disease,” UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said in a statement.
Although bird flu is an illness that usually only affects birds, an outbreak in China in October 2017 left 460 people sickened with the disease.
However, scientists said the risk of human-to-human transmission is low.
Barber confirmed to CNN that the outbreak is unlikely to affect the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor in May.