Update 16 January 2019: The current spell of cold weather being experienced on the continent has in previous years been known to push wild birds further towards the UK and so it's important for all poultry keepers to review their biosecurity protocols, particularly as this week a white-tailed eagle with H5N6 HPAI has been confirmed by the OIE.
We expect Defra to provide an update shortly but it isn't anticipated at this stage that the risk level for the UK will change significantly unless there are further outbreaks or causes for concern.
The Chief Veterinary Officers across the UK are encouraging all poultry keepers to take action now to reduce the risk of disease.
Since June 2017, there have been no detections of avian influenza in poultry or kept birds in the UK and the UK has retained its OIE country freedom status since September 2017. However with the winter period upon us and a confirmed case of H5N6 in a wild bird in Denmark it's important for all poultry keepers to review biosecurity protocols.
There are some simple measures that all bird keepers, whether they are running a large commercial farm, keeping a few birds in their back garden or rearing game birds, should take to protect their animals against the threat of avian influenza in the coming winter months. These include:
- Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly disinfect any hard surfaces. Clean footwear before and after visits.
- Place birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly.
- Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl.
- Where possible, avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species
- For poultry keepers in England, Wales and Scotland, sign up to a free APHA service to receive text or email alerts to any outbreaks of bird flu in the UK. In Northern Ireland, all bird keepers are encouraged to subscribe to a free text alert service by simply texting ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.
These measures are particularly important if you are in or close to one of the GB Higher Risk Areas (HRA). You can check whether or not you would be in a HRA if they were imposed by using DEFRA's online interactive map.
A joint statement by all four of the Chief Veterinary Officers in the UK said:
“Avian flu continues to circulate in many parts of the world and with the colder months upon us the risk of disease from migrating birds is increasing. It is critical that all keepers of poultry, including game birds and pet birds, act now to reduce the risk of transmission of avian flu to their flocks.
“Good biosecurity should be maintained at all times, including regularly cleaning and disinfecting the area where you keep birds and separating them from wild birds wherever possible.
“Keepers should also ensure they register on the Great Britain Poultry Register and we are pleased that new forms are now in place to simplify this process. Keepers in Northern Ireland must register their birds on the DAERA Bird Register. This can now be completed and submitted online.”
All bird keepers across Great Britain should also register their birds on the Great Britain Poultry Register (GBPR). If you have 50 or more birds, this is a legal requirement, although keepers with fewer than 50 birds are also strongly encouraged to register. New simplified and user-friendly forms will speed up the process this year.
In Northern Ireland it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to register every bird on the DAERA Bird Register, other than pet birds kept in the owner’s home.
Registering your birds means the government can contact you in the case of an outbreak and provide information on the steps to take to limit the chances of your birds getting the disease.
Last winter, the H5N6 HPAI strain of bird flu was only detected in wild birds and there were no outbreaks in domestic birds, either in commercial or small holdings. Although there have been no findings in the UK since June 2018 the virus is still circulating in wild birds in North Europe (including Denmark and Germany) and has caused outbreaks in poultry. In addition, the H5N8 HPAI virus continues to circulate in Eastern Europe, highlighting the need to stay vigilant.
The Government continues to monitor for incursions of avian flu and is working with the poultry and game bird industries; hen rehoming and pure and traditional poultry breeds stakeholders to help prevent incursions.
Further information for poultry keepers:
- A cross-Government and industry poster (see below) outlining biosecurity advice can be downloaded from GOV.UK, GOV.SCOT, GOV.WALES and in Northern Ireland a poster can be downloaded at Avian Influenza campaign poster.
- In the winter of 2016-2017 the H5N8 strain of bird flu was found on 13 premises across England and Wales. Cases were found in flocks as large as 63,000 and as small as 8 birds.
- In 2017-2018 the strain H5N6 was discovered only in wild birds in the UK, although there were no cases in captive birds.
- Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of bird flu you must report it immediately in:
England by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301,
Wales, contact 0300 303 8268.
Scotland by contacting your local Field Services Office
Northern Ireland by calling on the DAERA Helpline 0300 2007840
Failure to do so is an offence.
- If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77) or in Northern Ireland, on the DAERA Helpline 0300 2007840.
- For more advice and regular updates on the latest situation, visit Governments’ avian flu pages: in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- In GB, you are legally required to register your birds if you keep more than 50 birds. Keepers with less than 50 birds are encouraged to register.
- In Northern Ireland if you keep any birds, other than pet birds kept in the owner’s home, you need to make sure they are registered.