Rural Fylde coast residents have been put on alert this week as scientists confirm the first case of deadly bird flu has struck Britain.

Both Wyre and Fylde Borough Councils - which have large rural populations - were the first of the area's local authorities to urge people to "remain calm, but vigilant", with Blackpool Council quickly following suit.

It follows confirmation from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) vets that a wild Cellardyke 'Whooper' swan found dead in Fife, Scotland, last Thursday, was infected with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza - a condition which is potentially lethal to humans.

All three councils are now asking anyone who comes across any dead swans, more than three dead birds of the same species or more than five dead birds of different species in the same location to contact Defra.

A Wyre council spokesman said: "If anyone has any concerns about a sick, injured bird or any dead birds, especially where there are more than three dead birds of the same species or more than five dead birds of different species in the same location, they are advised to contact Defra.

"The council cannot deal with this directly as they only have powers to refer any matters to Defra as the lead organisation."

A Defra spokesman added: "We are, in most cases, looking for incidents of mortality affecting significant numbers of birds at the same time in the same place.

"However single or multiple deaths of swans are of interest.

"Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people. If dead birds are handled, it is important to wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible.

"Avoid touching your face and certainly do not eat until you have washed your hands. Clean any soiling on clothing with soap and water."

Marton Mere Nature Reserve has launched its own surveillance programme to monitor any suspicious deaths among wild birds.

And Fylde-based game hatchery - Hy-Fly - has also installed extra warning signs at its sites in Preesall in recent weeks in a bid to prevent the spread of H5N1 or any other disease reaching their flock of partridges, mallard ducks and pheasants.

A spokesman for the firm said: "We are following strict Defra guidelines in light of the threat of avian flu and have taken extra measures to ensure people do not access any of our fields to minimise the spread of any infectious disease."

Further advice on avian flu is available through the Defra helpline on 08459 335577 or website at