Preventing bird flu

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Current avian influenza measures

Mandatory housing measures for poultry and captive birds, which were introduced across England and Wales to help stop the spread of avian influenza, will be lifted from 00:01 on Tuesday 18 April 2023, the Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed, following the latest assessment of the risk level. 

Measures for enhanced biosecurity

While the risk of avian influenza has been reduced to “medium” for premises with poor biosecurity, the enhanced biosecurity requirements that were bought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will remain in force.

The risk of avian influenza remains assessed as “low”, where good biosecurity is applied.

Leading up to 18 April 2023, poultry keepers are urged to use the upcoming days to prepare their outside areas for the release of their birds. This will include cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.

For poultry keepers in Wales, a mandatory biosecurity self-assessment checklist must be undertaken by all poultry and captive bird keepers. This can be found on at: GOV.WALES: Mandatory biosecurity self-assessment checklist

From 12 noon on Monday 17 October all bird keepers in Great Britain must:

  • Take precautions against transfer of virus contamination between sites or premises, including the cleansing and disinfection of footwear, vehicles and equipment
  • Where more than 50 birds are kept, place a foot dip with Defra-approved disinfectant at the correct dilution rate at strategic points including at the entry and exit of all houses or outdoor areas where birds are kept and use on entry and exit of such areas (alternatively disposable footwear should be changed when moving between bird and non-bird areas)
  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds. For example, by netting ponds and by removing wild bird food sources 
  • Store feed, water and bedding undercover
  • Not keep ducks and geese in the same pen or building as other poultry species
  • Prevent access with poultry or other captive birds on other neighbouring premises 
  • Reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from the part of the premises where birds are kept to essential movements only
  • Exercise effective rodent control in areas poultry are kept 
  • Record all vehicles and people who enter the premises or come into contact with birds (zoos are exempt) 
  • Record all poultry, captive birds and egg movements and make these available to an inspector or veterinary inspector on demand 
  • Ensure bird housing is well maintained, with any water leaks or contamination routes rectified
  • Where birds are not housed, all poultry or other captive birds must be kept in fenced/enclosed outdoor areas, (please see the declaration for the rest of England for full requirements) 
  • Keep records of all poultry and other captive bird deaths and disposal and make such records available to an inspector or veterinary inspector on demand
  • Immediately report to the APHA any increased morbidity or mortality or significant drop in egg production (or where relevant feed and water intake) or other relevant information relating to the production of eggs on the premises

Additionally, keepers with more than 500 birds are required to take extra biosecurity measures, including:

  • Operating three defined parts of the premises: live-bird, private and restricted access
  • Operating effective barrier hygiene, including changing clothing and footwear before entering and exiting the live-bird area
  • Restricting access to the live-bird area to essential authorised personnel and essential equipment and vehicles and these must be recorded on entry/exit
  • Cleansing and disinfecting any vehicle exterior or equipment entering or leaving the live-bird part of the premise
  • Thorough cleansing and disinfecting of housing and equipment must be carried out at the end of a production cycle before any new birds are introduced
  • Keeping biosecure facilities in the private part of the premises for waste and fallen stock with clear separation between both the live-birds and restricted access parts
  • Regularly inspect structural integrity of any building used to house poultry for holes and leaks, with particular emphasis on roofs, gutters, and downpipes.  Any holes and leaks must be repaired without undue delay as previous cases of avian influenza have been linked to water ingress and flooding
  • Egg producers will need to ensure the packing, handling, and storage of second quality eggs / farm seconds is a managed in a biosecure manner
  • Plastic egg trays must be cleansed and disinfected before use and records maintained
  • Wild game birds should not be fed within 500m of the restricted access part of the premises where this area is under the control of the keeper.

Keep up to date with the latest guidance on avian influenza at GOV.UK | Avian influenza (bird flu)

Avian influenza case finder

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Keep up to date with cases using our AI case finder. It is a simple look up tool, that allows you to find any cases at any particular location. You can search for cases near you and find key details about current and lifted cases, including information on disease control zones.

Tips to help protect your birds 

We have put together some top tips to help you keep your birds safe!

  • Have designated footwear for entering your birds’ enclosures
  • Regularly cleanse and disinfect surfaces such as chicken coops, feeding trays and water dispensers
  • Have a designated fenced off area for your birds to limit their interaction with wild birds
  • Prevent your birds from sharing nearby ponds and waterways with wild birds. For example, by netting areas of standing water, such has ponds and preventing bird access.
  • Clean any feed spills to discourage rodents and wild birds
  • Ensure to wash your hands thoroughly after any interaction with your birds
  • Register your birds online to keep up to date on disease outbreaks so you can keep your birds safe click here to register

Useful biosecurity resources

The NFU's biosecurity poster is a useful tool to visually see biosecurity measures. Download, print and share copies with poultry keepers so we can all keep birds safe. 

How to spot avian influenza

There are 2 types of avian influenza – High Pathogenicity (HPAI) or Low Pathogenicity (LPAI). HPAI is the more serious type. It is often fatal in birds. The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • fewer eggs laid
  • increased mortality

Clinical signs can vary between species of bird and some species (for example, ducks and geese) may show minimal clinical signs.

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection. The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses. Anyone who keeps poultry must keep a close watch on them for any signs of disease, and must seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns. Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease meaning it is a legal requirement to report any suspicion of disease.

How is bird flu spread?

Bird flu (Avian Influenza) is spread by direct contact between birds, and through contamination in the environment, for example in bird droppings. This means wild birds carrying the disease can infect domestic poultry, so the best way to reduce the risk of your poultry catching bird flu is to minimise the chance of them coming into contact with wild birds or their droppings by practising good biosecurity and safety measures.

The winter means a reduction in natural foods so wild birds will seek out poultry feed and water during the tough months, and migratory birds begin to arrive from the Continent.

To help prevent the spread of the disease it is important to review the biosecurity measures that are in place in the flock currently. This in turn will protect your own flock, other backyard farmers and support British poultry. Below are pointers of how to achieve high levels of biosecurity.

Keeping in touch

To receive the latest news and advice should there be a Bird Flu outbreak, poultry keepers can sign up to the APHA poultry register. The NFU recommends that anyone with poultry or captive birds, no matter how many are in the flock, should register for free by clicking here or via the helpline on 03000 200 301.

What if you suspect an outbreak?

If you suspect Avian Influenza in your flock, please contact your vet immediately.

If a member of the public finds dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, they should not touch them and report them to the Defra helpline: 03459 33 55 77.

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