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Highly pathogenic bird flu has affected several Danish hooded gull colonies across the country. It is estimated that at least 3,000 adult hooded gulls have so far died from the disease.

Mass deaths among Danish hooded gulls have been recorded throughout the country since May, and it has been confirmed in many cases that the gulls are infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) reports.

This is shown by samples examined by the SSI and the University of Copenhagen in collaboration with Aarhus University and the Danish Food and Drug Administration.

It is the serious highly pathogenic bird flu virus H5N1, and deaths have currently been recorded in six hooded gull colonies in several different places in the country. Similar situations with infection are also seen in other Northern European countries.

In a single colony near Varde in West Jutland, approximately 400 dead hooded gulls have been found, and our guess is that at least 3,000 adult hooded gulls across the country have died so far” -Senior researcher Thomas Bregnballe from Aarhus University.

The many deaths among hooded gulls come after highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has been detected in many other species of wild birds and in several flocks of poultry.

H5N1 avian influenza
Image/Cynthia Goldsmith/ Jackie Katz

Bird flu can also infect mammals, which has already happened in a large number of countries. In Denmark, highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has been detected in one seal and four foxes, and a few cases of spread to dogs and cats have been seen abroad. In rare cases, bird flu viruses can also infect humans.

SSI and the University of Copenhagen follow developments closely, but assess that the risk to mammals and humans is generally low.

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“If you avoid contact with dead birds, there should be no cause for concern for the ordinary citizen. If you see a dead seagull – or other wild animals – you must leave them, because a bird infected with bird flu can continue to spread long after it is dead”, says senior researcher Charlotte Hjulsager from SSI and adds that if you find a dead bird, you can contribute to the monitoring of the situation by tipping your find through the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration’s app ‘Avian InfluenzaTip’.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also assesses that the risk of infection with the highly pathogenic viruses currently circulating in Europe is low for the general population in Europe, and that it is low to moderate for persons with occupational or other contact with infected birds.