Advice for Poultry & Gamebird Keepers on Avian Influenza

Defra’s Chief Veterinary Office has declared a Prevention Zone in England, Wales and Scotland (for 30 days), which introduces enhanced biosecurity requirements for poultry and captive birds and includes a requirement to house poultry to help protect them from a strain of Avian Flu in Europe. To date, no cases of H5N8 have been found in the UK. Outbreaks of H5N8 HPAI have been confirmed in poultry and wild birds in several countries across Europe.
“The risk of an HPAI incursion into poultry in the UK remains at ‘low, but heightened’, although for wild birds the risk has been raised to ‘medium’. It is normal to see these viruses circulating among wild bird populations at this time of year, however the strain seen in Europe appears to be particularly virulent which is a cause for some concern. Keeping birds indoors helps to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus, provided that poultry keepers maintain good biosecurity on their premises and remain vigilant for any signs of disease. Consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry given the expert advice about food safety and human health.” Sheila Voas, Chief Veterinary Officer.

Please see below for a comprehensive summary of the situation so far:

1.Before a first Avian Influenza outbreak in the UK, Government can make a Prevention Zone Declaration under Article 6 of the AI Order to require poultry ‘to be housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds’;
2.Defra are in the process of implementing this Prevention Zone Declaration for 30 days to cover the whole of England with effect from 14.30 hours Tuesday 06 December. Scotland and Wales followed suit today Wednesday 07 December;
3.The Prevention Zone is in response to the threat posed by the wild bird population in transmitting the disease to commercial poultry;
4.In addition the proximity of confirmed cases in the wild bird population such as Calais and the Netherlands has resulted in this proportionate response from Defra;
5.The action by Defra follows similar risk based decisions to house free range flocks in 11 other member states;
6.The main requirement of the Prevention Zone is a mandatory requirement for free range producers to house their flock;
7.Under the EU poultrymeat marketing regulation, and the EU eggs marketing regulation producers who are required by Government to house their birds to protect public and animal health can retain their free range status so long as the birds are not housed for longer than a period of 12 weeks

Advice for poultry keepers on Avian Influenza

·         Any suspected Avian Influenza needs to be reported. Speak to your vet if in any doubt.

·         Symptoms: watery eyes, nasal discharge, rattles, sudden drop in egg production, diarrhoea, deaths.

·         Register the flock with APHA.

·         Numerous cases of Avian Influenza have been detected in Europe including France and Holland. There is a concern that migrating birds may bring it to the UK. Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza can mutate to High pathogenic Avian Influenza – hence why the reporting of low pathogenic cases is so important.

·         APHA requires that all poultry and other captive birds are kept indoors at least until 6th Jan. This is for their own protection and that of other domestic birds.

·         Free-range status is not affected in this instance provided each bird is not kept inside for more than 12 weeks.

·         When birds can’t be kept indoors, ensure that wild birds are prevented from coming into contact with your birds. Eg. Do not put feeders or drinkers outside. Cover the outside area with a mesh if possible.

·         Penalties exist for breach of controls.

·         Report if you find a dead duck, swan or goose as these species are resistant to Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza and if they are dead, it could have been caused by High Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

·         Reinforce biosecurity precautions.

·         The threat to human health is very low.

·         Speak to your vet if you require further advice.