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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
Danyel VanReenan

East Lothian bird flu fears as up to 40 dead gannets washed up on beaches

Up to 40 dead gannets have washed up on East Lothian beaches sparking bird flu fears.

Testing is currently underway to determine whether or not avian flu is to blame with results likely to take up to two weeks to process.

Officials at East Lothian Council estimated between 30 to 40 gannets were found at Yellowcraig and North Berwick over the weekend - advising locals not to touch any dead birds they find.

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Although no tests have confirmed the latest incident was caused by avian influenza, Scottish ecologist and wildlife photographer Peter Stronach has been sharing photos and videos of sick or dead birds exhibiting symptoms of the avian disease on Twitter.

“At least a dozen dead gannets on the shoreline this morning at Yellowcraig and East Lothian,” read a post shared by Stronach.

“In light of the current outbreak of avian flu in the Shetland seabird colonies and elsewhere, surely extremely worrying.”

Dead gannets were washed up on beaches. (@Parsleyumbrella)

The NHS describes bird flu, or avian flu, as an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds and, in rare cases, affecting humans.

Some sources on Twitter estimated that the figure of dead or ill birds was much higher, but East Lothian Council said official numbers are very hard to determine.

According to the Scottish Government website, the GB dead wild bird surveillance programme has identified cases of bird flu in a variety of species across, West Lothian, Orkney and Shetland Islands, Aberdeenshire, Stirling and elsewhere in recent weeks.

The North Berwick investigation is being led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), but the incident has been confirmed and acknowledged by the East Lothian Council and the Scottish Seabird Centre.

“The key thing is for people not to touch any dead birds they might find,” a spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said.

The Council said all dead birds should be reported to Defra on 03459 335577 or to the Council Ranger Service. Sick or injured birds should be reported to the Scottish SPCA.

A spokesman from NatureScot said: “NatureScot is aware of recent reports of dead gannets being found on the Bass Rock and at St Abbs Head in East Lothian, as well as several other locations around the Scottish coastline. We are extremely concerned about the situation and its potential impact on Scotland’s internationally important bird populations.

"Our reserve staff and ornithologists are working closely with partners to assist the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in investigating outbreaks by collating records, monitoring colonies and collecting samples for testing. Surveys by NatureScot staff and others are planned for this breeding season for several seabird colonies in Scotland to compare with recent census counts and check for signs of infection.

“Thankfully, the risk to human health from avian flu is very low, but members of the public should avoid touching sick or dead wild birds and report any finds directly to Defra on 03459 33 55 77. We would also encourage visitors to coastal NatureScot reserves to keep their dogs on a lead to avoid them picking up dead birds.”

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