An undisclosed number of penguins have died at Hampshire’s Marwell Zoo in the UK following an avian flu outbreak.
The highly contagious H5N1 strain of the virus was confirmed at the location by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
“We were informed yesterday that a number of our penguins had tested positive for avian influenza. Unfortunately, these birds died as a result of their illness,” Marwell zoo said in a statement.
Despite “a number” of birds passing away, the zoo has remained open to visitors. However, precautions are in place. The public is now unable to access bird enclosures and disinfectant foot dips have been installed.
A monitoring zone has been established around the zoo to trace any further infections, covering a 3km radius.
Throughout the UK, owners of bird flocks have been instructed to bring their animals indoors. This is to limit contact with potentially infected wild birds. In line with the government housing mandate brought in on November 7, Marwell Zoo’s flamingos have been moved to a covered part of their existing enclosure.
Marwell Zoo — which keeps more than 1,200 animals in captivity — is now working with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, as well as Defra, to be fully compliant with all necessary biosecurity initiatives.
The worst avian flu outbreak in UK history
Penguins are just one bird species to be impacted by avian flu this year.
Last month, it was reported that half of the UK’s “free-range” turkeys have either died or been slaughtered as a result of disease outbreaks. This equates to more than 600,000 birds, but it’s also the tip of the iceberg.
Defra has confirmed that, since October, more than 2.3 million birds of various varieties have perished either through infection or preventative culling. It also revealed there have been 140 confirmed cases of H5N1 avian flu across the UK since October 1.
The current outbreak of avian flu is being heralded as the worst in UK history. The risk of transmission to humans remains low.