THE government has informed residents on signs to look out for and how to report concerns of bird flu after recent confirmed cases of bird flu near Clacton.

Avian influenza H5N1 was confirmed in chickens at the property near Little Clacton on Sunday, September 18, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

There are two types of avian influenza, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is more serious and is often fatal in birds.

The main clinical signs of HPAI, which can include any or a combination of the following, are:

  • Sudden and rapid increase in the number of birds found dead
  • Several birds affected in the same shed or air space
  • Swollen head
  • Closed and excessively watery eyes
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Recumbency and unresponsiveness
  • Incoordination and loss of balance
  • Head and body tremoring
  • Drooping of the wings and/or dragging of legs
  • Twisting of the head and neck
  • Swelling and blue discolouration of comb and wattles
  • Haemorrhages on shanks of the legs and under the skin of the neck
  • Loss of appetite or marked decrease in feed consumption
  • Sudden increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Respiratory distress such as gaping (mouth breathing), nasal snicking (coughing sound), sneezing, gurgling or rattling
  • Fever or noticeable increase in body temperature
  • Discoloured or loose watery droppings
  • Cessation or marked reduction in egg production

Read more: Outbreak of 'highly pathogenic' bird flu strain confirmed near Clacton

Clinical signs can vary between species of bird and some species, for example ducks and geese, may show minimal clinical signs.

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious and may show more vague clinical signs. 

It can cause mild breathing problems and reduction of egg production, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.

The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.

Anyone who keeps poultry must keep a close watch on them for any signs of disease, and must seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.

If you suspect avian influenza you must report it immediately by calling Defra on 03000 200 301.