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Avian Influenza (“Bird Flu”) and the Beach Patrol Scheme

September 4th, 2023

A pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1) virus has spread across much of the world over the past five years, and it continues to spread.  The H5N1 avian influenza virus, also called “bird flu”, causes an infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds.  It is highly contagious among birds and can cause considerable mortality, in particular seabirds including gulls, terns, shags, gannets, pelicans and penguins.

Although the virus has not been reported in New Zealand where it might arrive in migrating birds, members of the Society, especially beach patrollers, have an important role in surveillance of the avian influenza virus when walking along coastlines.  If beach patrollers observe unusually high numbers of living but sick birds, especially birds showing unusual neurological symptoms, or find recent mortality of birds on coastlines where they might have died through avian influenza, please contact the Ministry of Primary Industries hotline 0800 80 99 66 immediately.

As there is a potential risk that bird flu may be transmitted to humans, please do not touch the birds.  Please wait for instructions before handling any sick or dead birds.

More information is available here.