A number of swans found dead at a Nottinghamshire country park have been taken to government labs for testing for bird flu.
Twelve swans found dead near the lake at Clumber Park are undergoing post-mortem examination amid fears of avian influenza, or bird flu, which has previously been confirmed present at a poultry farm in Lincolnshire.
Avian influenza is a highly infectious disease caused by the influenza A virus, which can decimate wild bird populations and animals at poultry farms.
The latest strain, H5N8, is a sub-type of the bird flu virus and although no human cases of infection have been detected, the World Health Organisation has said the risk cannot be excluded.
Bird flu is also closely monitored worldwide because of the small risk it could cross over into the human population and cause a pandemic.
A National Trust spokesman said: “The bodies of a number of dead swans have been discovered at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, since Christmas Eve.
“As a precautionary measure, National Trust rangers informed Government scientists, who removed the swan carcasses this week. A post-mortem examination is currently being carried out.
“Clumber Park will remain open to visitors as usual. Public Health England advises that the risks to public health from the H5N8 virus are very low.
“As with any wild animal, we advise our visitors against feeding or touching the ducks, geese and other wild birds at Clumber Park.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has sent the samples to their lab in Surrey for testing.
DEFRA confirmed there have been no other findings of bird flu in wild or kept birds in Nottinghamshire to date, so if the virus is found in the swans it will be a first for the county.
Rupert Harker produces poultry on his farm near Clipston, also home to Harker’s Farm Shop, and called for everyone who has birds to be responsible.
He said: “We locked all our poultry away three weeks before Christmas and we are waiting to hear the all-clear.
“We often get warnings this time of year about the risks, it is when the birds are migrating to the continent.
“I have had to keep my free range turkeys in and I’ve heard stories that some people are keeping their domestic chickens out, which they shouldn’t be doing.
“If the birds are shut away it reduces the risk of the disease spreading but it has been a worry for us, I have taken extra precautions by disinfecting more and also being vigilant when vehicles come onto the farm for deliveries, you never know if they have been on other poultry farms.
“These are normal precautions just with a bit more care, it is part and parcel of being a livestock farmer.”