In ‘t Gooi, bird flu is being watched with more than a slanted eye. For the time being, things are not too bad in the region, but the authorities that deal with it on a daily basis are very aware of the contagiousness of the animals and the possible consequences thereof.
A place in ‘t Gooi where birds with a problem often end up is the Vogelhospitaal in Naarden. Birds from all over Central Netherlands are collected here. “It is now about a few birds a week that come in here with bird flu,” says Erik Bruining of the Vogelshospitaal. But this number is expected to increase within a few weeks. “We hold our breath. Especially how that will go logistically.”
The Vogelhospitaal team is therefore very aware of the dangers that the disease can entail for other birds and have already taken considerable precautions. Everything to keep bird flu at bay and to prevent healthy birds from becoming infected. “We already have a temporary quarantine unit, but it will soon be a permanent one.” All birds that have symptoms of bird flu end up here.
“It manifests itself mainly in neurological problems,” explains Bruining. “For example, if the bird pulls back with its head or cannot stand upright. But discharge from the nose and a pale haze over the eyes are also a sign.”
Prevent contamination of humans
In addition to preventing infections among the birds, the team itself must also be prevented from becoming infected. The birds with the symptoms receive treatment similar to that during the corona crisis: the hospital employees wear white suits with gloves, masks and goggles when they handle an infected bird.
“Basically, bird flu is not dangerous for humans, but if a more severe variant develops, it can be a really annoying disease,” says Bruining. The foundation of the hospital itself pays for a flu shot for the employees. “Because you have to prevent bird flu from attaching to a human flu virus.”
What to do?
- Do not touch sick and dead birds and stay away from birds that show abnormal behavior. Birds can make uncontrolled movements, look very drowsy or have discharge from the nostrils in the beak.
- Keep dogs on a leash. Mammals – in rare cases including humans – can become ill if they come into contact with animals that have bird flu.
- Stay on the trails. Try to keep the peace as much as possible in areas where there are many birds. This prevents the disturbance of birds and reduces the chance of spreading.
- In the unlikely event that you come across several dead birds, you can report this via this notification form of the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre.
Source: Natuurmonumenten/Vogelhospitaal Naarden
Hygiene is therefore key in this story. Also for people who decide to bring a sick bird with symptoms to the Vogelhospitaal on their own. “People take the flu into their home or car with them and that virus can certainly survive for a few days. My advice is therefore not to touch the bird, but to call the animal ambulance right away.”
“It’s all about lowering the chance of getting infected, but that’s never quite certain.” The Animal Ambulance Gooi- en Vechtstreek emphasizes the tips of the Vogelhospitaal.
Eempolder and border lakes
No bird flu has yet been found in the Eempolder meadow bird area between Eemnes and Spakenburg. Meadow bird protector Wilhelm Bos of the Eemland Collective is in the area every day and does not see any dead birds. “We mainly have meadow birds here,” says Bos. “And they don’t seem to be infected at the moment.”
He also indicates that things can be different outside the Eempolder. Bos also says that the bird flu problem mainly occurs in the vicinity of the peripheral lakes, because there are more seagulls there.
According to Natuurmonumenten, a number of dead birds have been found in the Eemmeer, which have since been cleared. The organization says it knows from experience that clearing carcasses quickly is the best way to prevent contamination.