FOLLOWING a week of scare reports about the westward spread of bird flu into Europe, a spokesman from London Wetland Centre in Barnes said the risk of the virus spreading to the UK is still very low.

Martin Senior, communications and marketing manager at the London Wetland Centre, Barnes, said: "The recent outbreaks in Romania and Turkey are now thought to be an H5 strain of Avian Influenza but we are awaiting further tests to see if this is the same strain that originated in South East Asia or a different strain.

"The disease is usually spread by transport of infected domestic birds, however there is some circumstantial evidence that migratory birds may have been involved in a few outbreaks in poultry.

That said, the Government still considers the risk of migratory birds bringing avian influenza to the UK to be low."

It was also announced this week that the centre, located on the river front in Barnes, will play a significant part in the early warning system to monitor the spread of avian influenza.

Together with the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), Defra, the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology and wildfowlers across the country, the Barnes centre will be scientifically observing birds for any signs and symptoms of the avian virus.

Subtypes of the bird flu virus rarely occur in humans, but the outbreak of avian influenza among chickens in Asia is an example of bird flu causing infections and deaths among humans.

Symptoms of the avian influenza (A H5N1) virus in humans range from typical flu symptoms like fever, cough and sore throat to eye infections, pneumonia and severe respiratory diseases.