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Bird flu identified in wild birds and poultry across England

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone has been declared across the whole of England after outbreaks in wild birds and boiler breeder farms.

The decision to implement this AIPZ follows a risk assessment containing the latest scientific and ornithological evidence and veterinary advice.

The AIPZ means a bird keeper in England (whether they have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock) are required by law to take a range of biosecurity precautions.

This follows the confirmation of 5 cases of avian influenza in poultry or other captive birds at premises in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, Stroud in Gloucestershire, Leominster, in Herefordshire, Frodsham, Cheshire and Deal, Kent.

However, it is not just captive birds that are at risk, a number of cases have been confirmed in wild birds too. Wild birds at the following locations have all tested positive for high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8:

  • near Stroud, Gloucestershire (geese)
  • near Dawlish, Devon (swans)
  • near Weymouth, Dorset (a goose)
  • near Ormskirk, Lancashire (a goose and a buzzard)
  • near Boston, Lincolnshire (geese and ducks)

In addition, wild birds at the following locations have also tested positive for avian influenza H5N8, however the pathotype of the strain is yet to be confirmed:

  • near Stroud, Gloucestershire (geese)
  • near Weymouth, Dorset (swans and geese)
  • near Dawlish, Devon (swans)
  • near Poole, Dorset (a swan)**
  • near Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire (a gull)**
  • near Rochford, Essex (a swan)**
  • ** indicates first finding of avian influenza in wild birds in this area this year

Following confirmed cases of avian influenza in England and increasing reports of avian influenza affecting flocks in mainland Europe, the risk level for avian influenza incursion in wild birds in GB was been raised from 'medium to high' on the 6 November 2020. The risk level for the disease being introduced to poultry premises in GB was also raised from ‘low’ to ‘medium’ on the 6 November. 
In response to the increased risk an AIPZ has been declared in England, Scotland and Wales and the Chief Vets from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are urging bird keepers across the UK to maintain and strengthen their biosecurity measures in order to prevent further outbreaks of avian influenza in the UK.

To ensure good biosecurity, all poultry keepers should:

  • minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
  • clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Defra approved disinfectant at entrances and exits
  • clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry
  • keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
  • humanely control rats and mice
  • place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • make sure there is no direct contact with poultry or other captive birds on other neighbouring premises
  • avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species, where possible
  • keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
  • keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet
  • keep records (other than in a zoo) of all vehicles that enter any part of the premises where poultry are kept and of all people who come into any direct contact with the poultry.
  • keep records of all poultry, captive bird and egg movements, have these available to an inspector or veterinary inspector on demand

If you keeps more than 500 birds you must take some extra biosecurity measures. They include:

  • identifying clearly defined areas where access by non-essential people and vehicles are restricted
  • cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, equipment and footwear
  • keeping records of vehicles and personnel entering and leaving the live-bird part

For more information on the current advice and guidelines click here.

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