Wildlife disease surveillance

AHVLA (formally VLA) has been involved in the surveillance of wildlife diseases since the 1920s, investigating wildlife deaths and identifying diseases.

In 1998, VLA introduced an official national surveillance scheme for investigating and recording disease and death in wildlife species. This was called the Diseases of Wildlife Scheme.


Following the publication of the England Wildlife Health Strategy in 2009, the Scheme was replaced by Great Britain Wildlife Disease Surveillance Partnership.

Headed by AHVLA, the Partnership brings together other organisations that are also involved in wildlife disease surveillance. These include the Scottish Agriculture College, the Institute of Zoology, The Food & Environment Research Agency and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.

The Partnership provides wildlife disease surveillance and brings together the expertise from the members.

Objectives of surveillance

  • Investigate new and emerging diseases
  • Surveillance for zoonotic diseases (transmissible to man)
  • Surveillance for diseases infectious to domesticated stock
  • Surveillance for exotic infections like West Nile Fever
  • Investigate diseases that may reflect pollution
  • Investigate wildlife mass mortality incidents.

West Nile Virus is one example of how we carries out our surveillance. In 2001, we began to look for West Nile Virus (WNV) in wild bird casualties, so far we have not detected this virus.

In more recent years we have enhanced our surveillance for avian influenza. This involves examining birds from suspicious incidents. We also provide diagnostic support to the national wild bird survey which looks at the potential spread of avian influenza through migratory birds.


Microbiology Today (2003), Volume 30
This issue provides information on several important emerging wildlife diseases and wildlife disease surveillance by VLA.

Veterinary Record 167 (5) 154-156
J.P. Duff et al (2010) Surveillance turns to wildlife.

If you are aware of an unusual disease in wildlife, please contact your nearest Investigation Centre and Laboratory. The person making the submission will receive a copy of the laboratory reports. We are particularly interested in mass mortalities in wild birds.

Page last modified: 18 April 2013