Thousands of gulls fall victim to bird flu around Daugavpils

In and around the city of Daugavpils, 1,000 dead gulls have already been found and eliminated over the past week. Bird deaths are associated with avian influenza. Mass deaths have also been reported in Krāslava, Latvian Radio reported on May 10.

Pathogenic avian influenza is spreading in the gull colonies in Latgale. Since May 4, about a thousand birds have already been disposed of, and about 200 birds have been found dead in Krāslava. However, according to specialists, it is only the known part, since at least 30% of dead birds are not found.

In other parts of the country, mass bird deaths are not observed. 

Although avian influenza has seriously affected the population of the black-headed gull which is protected in Latvia, the species of these birds are not in danger of extinction, an ornithologist said.

"The black-headed gull is a specially protected species in Latvia, and in recent decades, both in Latvia and in the European context, the species has reduced. I am not a specialist on bird diseases, but from foreign literature and research data, I have concluded that I could think and hope that the mortality rate will decrease and total extinction does not await them. Around 30% of birds from one colony can be fatally ill," said onithologist Gaidis Grandāns.

"I assume that at some point, the deaths will stop and we can say that the infection has stopped. The important thing is to prevent this infection from entering flocks of chickens or other poultry," said Dzintars Juškus, head of the Regional Council of the Food and Veterinary Service (PVD).

Since this infectious disease can be dangerous not only for wild birds and poultry but also for humans, the population is encouraged not to touch sick or dead birds.

"Our recommendations to the population would be to never approach to these dead birds. If they are still alive, don't bring them home or to veterinary clinics or some shelters. If there is any contact, take care of the hygiene measures, that is, wash and disinfect your hands," Juškus.

On the other hand, residents with poultry are encouraged to comply with biosecurity rules.

All cases where illness has been observed in both wild and poultry must be notified to the Food and Veterinary Service.

Also elsewhere in European countries, the pathogenic avian influenza virus has been detected directly in black-headed gull colonies. 

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