Bird flu has claimed the lives of more than a dozen swans belonging to a flock that was popular with tourists visiting Shakespeare’s hometown. One expert warned that the virus is ‘beyond control’.

Currently, scientists from the Government are testing the birds that died after an outbreak in avian flu in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Every year, thousands of tourists flock to Warwickshire, which is also the birthplace for playwright William Shakespeare, to see the scores of swans who live along the River Avon. According to a count done in July 2013, 150 birds were recorded.  

But in recent weeks, several of the swans – as well as ducks and geese – have been struck down with avian flu leaving wildlife experts fearing Stratford-upon-Avon’s swan population could be wiped out.

The first outbreak was confirmed at Wychbold’s rescue centre, a 40-minute drive away from Stratford-upon-Avon. However now, the rescue group in Wychbold has declared that their swan population may be at risk due to several birds contracting the deadly disease. 

Cyril Bennis is the founder of Stratford-Upon-Avon Swan Rescue and a former mayor of the city. He warned that the current outbreak – which is one of two currently active in Britain – was ‘beyond management’.

More than a dozen swans from a flock popular with tourists in Stratford-upon-Avon (pictured) have been killed after an outbreak of avian flu occurred in a Worcestershire rescue centre

After an outbreak in Worcestershire rescue centres, more than a dozen swans were taken from a flock that was popular with tourists in Stratford-upon-Avon (pictured).

Cyril Bennis from Stratford-upon-Avon Swan Rescue

Cyril Bennis from Stratford-upon-Avon Swan Rescue

Cyril Bennis, Stratford-upon-Avon Swan Rescue (pictured), says that the community is’very worried’ about the outbreak that has resulted in the deaths of several swans.

Mr Bennis (72), who has been caring to swans in Worcestershire for 40 years, said that ‘Three Weeks ago one of our sanctuaries that they take our swans too was shut down by suspected avian virus.

“The swans that were on the mend had to be put down.

“The other rescue center had to be closed as well because two swans from that facility also suspected of having avian influenza.”

Mr Bennis claimed that officials from the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, (Defra), came and collected swans which had already died two week ago, but that more were ‘dying all around’.

He said that he had to stack them up to clarify what he was supposed to do.

“At the moment I have more than a dozen dead bird – not just swans but ducks as well.

Map showing where the disease was first confirmed at Wychbold rescue centre (yellow), near Stratford-upon-Avon. A second outbreak is currently being monitored in Wrexham (green)

Map showing the location of the first confirmation of the disease at Wychbold rescue center (yellow), near Stratford-upon-Avon. A second outbreak is currently being tracked in Wrexham (green).

Stratford is also the birthplace of William Shakespeare (pictured), known as the Swan of Avon

Stratford is also where William Shakespeare was born (pictured), better known as the Swan of Avon.

“I had to put two swans in bed today, one last night. Seven others have died from suspected avian influenza in the last few days. It’s a daily occurrence.

“I really fear that the entire populace, which is more 70 swans, could potentially be under serious threat.

It is frustrating and heartbreaking to watch animals suffer. These animals are often perfectly healthy and then they die.

“I watched one die in my arms last evening and could not do anything.”

“Our community is very concerned about the situation.”

Avian flu, more commonly known as bird flu, is not an airbourne virus but spreads bird-to-bird through direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces according to Defra.

The virus It can also be spread through contaminated food and water, dirty vehicles, clothing, and footwear. 

If the disease is carried by birds migrating from Europe to the UK, cases can increase in winter months.

While the virus can sometimes also infect humans, Defra claims that the risk to the general public is low.

Large flock of swans in Stratford-upon-Avon are popular with tourists, especially in summer

Tourists love to see large flocks of swans in Stratford-upon-Avon, especially during summer.

There are two types of the virus, with one being more severe. Defra is currently conducting tests to determine which strain was confirmed in Stratford. A second wave in bird flu has been confirmed at Wrexham, Wales.

The outbreak is still active, so the rescue center where the disease was first discovered has been closed.

Wychbold Swan Rescue stated that it was ‘devastated” by the outbreak and is currently under a Defra Control Zone.

The outbreak forced all birds to be culled. Additionally, officers set up a 3km- and 10km control zones around the site.

Wychbold Swan Rescue issued a statement saying that it was devastated by recent events.

You may have heard that our beloved birds had to be put down after they tested positive for avian flu.

‘We can’t believe this has happened again. This means that we cannot attend to any birds until further notice.

‘It’s an extremely unfortunate situation that everyone at Swan Rescue is thoroughly broken-hearted about.’ 

A late-year outbreak caused the death of about 25 swans in Stratford as well as others in Worcester, Evesham.

MailOnline reached out to Defra for comment.