Watch: Dying ducks are threat to public health – ERA

Updated 04:19 PM

The plan of action is in discussion.

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The health authorities, together with the Veterinary Regulation Directorate, has informed the public that ducks at the Salina Nature Reserve have been tested positive for Influenza A subtype H6 (H6Nx). However, epidemiological evidence shows that there is no known risk of illness in humans from exposure to infected animals with this type of influenza.

Health Authorities said that the situation is closely being monitored and appropriate actions are being taken accordingly by the veterinary authorities.

In a statement issued by the Ministry for Health and the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries, said that the situation is closely being monitored and appropriate actions are being taken accordingly by the veterinary authorities and that the public should always take the necessary precautions when dealing with animals.

Several farmed Muscovy ducks are sick and dying close to the Salina Nature Reserve. BirdLife Malta issued a statement saying that no action has been taken by the competent authorities. However, the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) have responded saying that the test results were received on 1st July, showing that the ducks are infected with avian flu and salmonella, making them a threat to public health. The Ministry is currently in consultation with the Veterinary and Plants Regulation Division in order to decide on a plan of action for their removal.

BirdLife Malta accuses authorities of no action

BirdLife Malta issued a statement outlining that there are domestic ducks that are sick and dying close to the Salina Nature Reserve. It accused authorities of inaction on the matter.

They are found on land which is not managed by BirdLife Malta, adjacent to the canal under the main road close to the entrance to Salina Nature Reserve. The organisation stated that it requested the authorities to take action to safeguard the well-being of the farmed ducks along with the natural habitat of the area which is also a Natura 2000 site and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

These authorities include the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), the Government Veterinary Services, the Health Environment Directorate and the Animal Welfare Department.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated that the organisation had informed the authorities that these farmed ducks are alien to this site of high ecological importance and that being farmed without any control was detrimental to the biodiversity of the area but also for the same ducks.
He concluded by saying that the sick ducks must be isolated in order to safeguard all.

This species of domestic duck hails from Central and South America and has become a farm animal in various countries. The biggest problem they face is that they need a constant supply of fresh water which in Malta is not found easily as a natural resource.

“Avian Flu and Salmonella; may pose a risk to public health” – ERA

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) responded that they have requested tests to be carried out through the Veterinary and Plant Regulatory Division (VPRD). These tests showed that the ducks are infected with Avian Flu and Salmonella, which marks them as a possible threat to public health.

The Authority stated that this makes them not only a problem to native and migratory wildlife in the area, but also to public health and food. This is because there may be possible transmission of such diseases to domesticated poultry species, which were also released in the same area.

It is also noted that the ducks in question are feral domesticated ducks, which are not native to the Maltese Islands. This means they cause direct environmental damage by altering the habitat where they live, degrading it, and increasing the risks of nutrient enrichment and water contamination, which eventually increases eutrophication episodes (such as red tides). Such episodes are very damaging to protected wildlife in the area as they may lead to the death of fish and other wildlife, including protected species, as well as other unwanted environmental and health consequences.

Besides being introduced there and the damage indicated, other ancillary non-authorised alterations were also carried out in the site (which lies in a protected area) to accommodate the domesticated ducks.

In view of these environmental issues, ERA has also issued a Stop and Compliance Order (OWK) on this matter earlier on, which was followed up through such tests.