A SUSPECTED outbreak of avian flu has been discovered in Stratford.
Two cygnets, removed by swan rescuer Cyril Bennis from the River Avon, were suspected to have the infection by Vale Wildlife Hospital in Tewkesbury and subsequently put to sleep.
It follows some 15 which were euthanised at Wychbold Swan Rescue, in Droitwich, after the virus was confirmed within the centre earlier this week.
Mr Bennis said: “Most were swans I’d rescued over the weeks which sadly didn’t get their second chance.
“DEFRA makes that decision and you’ve just got to go with the flow.
“We’re devastated. People say ‘Cyril, it’s great, because we’ve got lots of swans’ but you can’t just assume everything’s fine. Everything is not fine and that’s our environment as we have it at the moment.”
The centre has since closed temporarily to avoid spreading the infection.
A post on its Facebook page read: “As you can imagine, we are devastated by recent events. You may of heard on the news, it has been confirmed that our beloved birds have had to be euthanised after testing positive for avian influenza.
“We can’t believe this has happened again. This means until further notice, we are unable to attend to any birds.”
Mr Bennis is now working with the government environment agency to test the river for pollutants and to remove any dead birds from the river.
He added: “The problem is nobody will take them.
“All I can do is work with DEFRA. I’ve got to have special suit on me to make sure I don’t get infected. It’s all very much on alert on the river at the moment.
“It’s devastating for us because its hard to know what’s going to happen. We’re hoping it might go as quickly as it came.
“The whole behaviour of the birds is sad to see. It affects their nervous system. Their eyes stream and their heads are swollen. It’s very much like a downhill spiral. But most of the time you can’t do anything.
“We just have to go day to day. I’ll be checking on them for any signs of illness and it’s going to be tragic because there’s nothing I can do.”
He is urging the public not to touch swans and birds on the river, nor feed them to avoid them congregating and spreading the infection.
Avian Influenza, commonly known as bird flu, can spread among birds including poultry, pigeons and wild or migratory birds, such as ducks and swans. It can be contracted by humans although the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed the risk to public health is very low in this case.
There are two strains of the virus with one being a lot more severe. DEFRA is currently running tests to determine the strain confirmed in Stratford.
An outbreak late last year resulted in the death of around 25 swans in Stratford, as well as others in Worcester and Evesham. Further cases were reported across the country.