AVIAN INFLUENZA – LATEST INFORMATION

New housing measures will come into force in England, Scotland and Wales on 14 December.

The Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland and Wales have agreed to bring in new measures to help protect poultry and captive birds, following a number of cases of avian influenza in both wild and captive birds in the UK.

The new housing measures, which will come into force on 14 December, mean that it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.

Public health advice is that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and it does not affect the consumption of poultry products including eggs.

Government Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging bird keepers to use the next 11 days to prepare for new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and where necessary put up additional housing.

These housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity regulations that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Protection Zone (AIPZ) on 11 November. The AIPZ means that all poultry and captive bird keepers need to take extra precautions, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-essential people on their sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.

The UK Government has worked closely with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions will be applied across the whole of Great Britain.

A joint statement from Great Britain’s three Chief Veterinary Officers said:

We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.

Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from 14 December onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns. They can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, including:

  • housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
  • cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and using effective vermin control
  • thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
  • keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry and captive bird housing or enclosures
  • minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds

The new housing measures will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.

The introduction of the these new measures follows a number of confirmed cases of avian influenza in the UK.

This includes:

  • H5N2 (low pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a site near Deal in Kent on 2 November.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a site near Frodsham in Cheshire on 2 November
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a broiler breeder farm near Leominster in Herefordshire on 10 November .
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza was confirmed at a site near Stroud in Gloucestershire on 19 November.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) confirmed at a premises near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire on 21 November.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) influenza confirmed at two premises near Northallerton, North Yorkshire on 29 November and 1 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) influenza confirmed at a premises near Attleborough, Breckland, Norfolk on 4 December.

In each case Defra has acted quickly to cull affected birds and to introduce movement restrictions to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Poultry and captive bird keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (option 7), and keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA on 03000 200 301. Keepers should familiarise themselves with our avian flu advice.

Further information

  • The government’s outbreak assessment following recent cases in England can be accessed here.
  • For more advice and regular updates on the latest situation, visit Governments’ avian flu pages: in EnglandScotlandWales and NI.
  • Food safety advice for cooking poultry and eggs remains unchanged. See NHS advice on safe cooking of eggs and poultry.
  • In light of evidence from the continent and ongoing high numbers of findings among wild bird populations in England, the risk of incursion of avian influenza has been increased to very high for wild birds and medium for poultry with high biosecurity and high for poultry with poor biosecurity.
  • Avian Influenza is in no way connected to the COVID-19 pandemic which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is not carried in poultry.

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