The purpose of this document is to provide advice to people who come across dead wild birds or who are involved in the rescue/rehabilitation of wild birds. A separate advice document is available for people who handle wild birds on an ongoing basis, such as bird ringers.
Wild birds, like poultry, can become infected with the viruses that cause Avian Influenza (AI). Certain species of wild birds, in particular wild migratory water birds are at a higher risk of becoming infected with AI due to the fact that they travel the farthest, regularly gather in large numbers and mix with many other water bird species.
These birds are considered to be the natural reservoir of many different AI viruses many of which are relatively harmless to birds and other animals. However certain types of avian influenza viruses can cause illness and often death in both migratory and native wild bird species and in poultry and captive bird species. In rare cases, some highly pathogenic strains and some low pathogenic strains can cause disease in humans but and such cases have been associated with close contact with infected birds.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) monitors the occurrence of
Avian Influenza in poultry and wild birds in Europe on an ongoing basis in order to assess the risk to Ireland.
A list of the wild bird species that are at highest risk of being infected is
available to view at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/15675-measures-to-reduce-the-riskof-introduction-of-avian-influenza/#information-and-advice-on-avian-influenza-in-wild-birds
Current situation with Avian Influenza H5N1 and information on public health risk
In November 2021 the Department detected a strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza
(HPAI) H5N1 in a peregrine falcon found in Galway. This strain of H5N1 has not associated with human infections in Europe to date and the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre(HSE-HPSC) have advised that the risk to public health from H5N1 avian influenza is very low.
In addition the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has determined that Avian Influenza HPAI H5N1 poses no food safety risk for consumers. What members of the public should do if they find a dead wild bird. Members of the public that find dead wild birds particularly water birds such as swans, geese, ducks, birds of prey or other dead wild birds that are on the high risk list mentioned above are advised not to handle the birds.
They should report them to the DAFM by contacting their local Regional Veterinary Office of DAFM or the Avian Influenza Hotline at 076 106 4403 (office hours) or 1850 200 456 (outside of normal office hours).
The Department will endeavour to collect species that are on the high risk list and test them for avian influenza viruses. This will provide vital information on the disease by helping us to detect it as early as possible and understand how the disease is distributed geographically and in what species of bird.
If a member of the public does handle or come into contact with dead wild birds, then normal hygiene precautions should be taken i.e., disinfect hands using alcohol wipes for example or sure scrub hands thoroughly with soap and hot water.
Advice for people involved in rescue and rehabilitation of sick or injured wild birds.
People that rescue and care for sick or injured wild birds should be aware of avian influenza.
Birds displaying any symptoms of avian influenza including general depression or weakness of unknown origin should not be brought into rehabilitation centres where they could potentially spread the disease to other birds. Any wild birds displaying symptoms of avian influenza should be reported to DAFM as described above without delay. For all other symptoms of disease in wild birds they should contact their Private Veterinary Practitioner for advice. A description of the symptoms of avian influenza can be found here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/acacf-clinical-signs/
As birds can carry other diseases that are potentially transmissible to humans (e.g., bacteria such as Salmonella and Chlamydia) anyone handling birds should take appropriate hygiene precautions. This should include wearing disposable gloves, disposable or dedicated outerwear as well as taking care to always wash and disinfect hands after handling birds.
Further information on avian influenza can be found at: