Avian Influenza Official Notification from APHA
Unfortunately Bird Flu (Avian Influenza) (AI) has arrived in the UK this year, as if Covid 19 wasn’t enough. The latest strain has predominantly been H5N1 and so far, all have been a Highly Pathogenic strain which means there is a possibility (very slight) that it has the capacity to infect humans and other mammals. Many birds have already had to be culled when an infection was found. This is a notifiable disease so keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet. There are several variants of AI, with some being more dangerous than others.
There is a lot of confusing misinformation about Avian Influenza and what you must do and what is allowed or not allowed. This page is intended to clarify the situation.
Since March 2021 Avian Influenza had not been detected in the UK but monitoring has continued. However, as at 24th November 2021 there have been 17 incidents of infection of H5N1. This link shows a map of where the current bird flu cases have been. The current case is a bit close for comfort. We are about a mile outside of the latest zone to be confirmed which is centred on Mouldsworth in Cheshire. There has been no countrywide “flockdown” currently unless you are within a 10 km radius of the infection site but if there are any more cases then it will be a real possibility. Please keep on with your biosecurity and think about increasing your segregation options for the best living conditions for the birds if it does happen. There is guidance on the APHA site here.
The current position is the whole of the UK is declared a Prevention Zone (outside of the currently active Protection and Surveillance Zones). As of 00:01 on Monday 29th November 2021 there is a housing order declared. I have detailed below what the requirements are. There has also been a ban on poultry gatherings (shows, auctions, sales meetings, bird fairs) as at the 8th November. This will remain in force until further notice. As in previous lockdowns, it could well remain in force until April. A link to the active restricted zones are below
There has not been a restriction issued on sales from individual breeders as long as the breeder has not moved birds in from elsewhere within the last 13 days. however you should not buy from anyone in a currently active Surveillance zone. You should not move any birds within a currently active surveillance zone either. Birds that have been in the same place (For locations outside of an active Surveillance zone) for at least 13 days are not covered by Sales restrictions but gatherings are still banned. Enhanced Biosecurity is still required everywhere.
What May the Government do in response
In essence the whole of England is now legally declared a Prevention Zone (as of 8th November 2021) and a compulsory housing order has been issued from 00:01 on Monday 29th November 2021. This housing order is compulsory and affects all flocks of captive birds whether they are kept by the 1000’s or a small garden flock. Many thousands of birds could be culled when an infection was found. The housing order is a legally enforced requirement.
What does a housing order mean
Where the the Government has imposed a housing order you are legally required to ensure that your birds are housed. Where this is not possible, you should ensure that areas your birds use are either under a cover (tarpaulin) or netted to ensure total and complete separation between wild birds, vermin and your own birds. There should be absolutely no way a wild bird can use or contaminate the ground your birds are on. This is the risk we all face. This affects ALL keepers of captive birds. No-one is exempt.
Please make sure that you attend to the following:-
Bird flu biosecurity recommendations
- Keep ALL birds indoors or under cover with either a roof or small holed nets to exclude wild birds and vermin. This is now compulsory.
- Ensure that you feed and water your birds in an area that wild birds and vermin cannot contaminate either by drinking or droppings
- Restrict the visitors to the area the birds are in
- Make any ponds and boggy areas out of bounds to your birds and other wild birds
- Don’t encourage wild birds onto your property by feeding them
- Enhance your biosecurity by using a DEFRA APPROVED disinfectant foot dip at all entrances if possible. Clean boots and clothing are advised. Hard paved area to be disinfected also.
- Keep waterfowl (ducks, geese etc) separated from other poultry as the risk to waterfowl is greater.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after dealing with poultry and make sure that you don’t put your hands near your mouth at any time.
The Food Standards Agency are also offering reassurance that bird flu will not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. The eating of Poultry products and eating eggs are safe.
What happens following a local outbreak
At the source of the avian influenza infection, all birds are evaluated by a vet and if infection is suspected then all the birds on the site are subjected to a humane cull order. There is no “get out of jail free card” to play here however – all birds die. Temporary no-movement zones are created around ground zero. Once the final tests come back and their strain is identified, the following zones are declared. Severe movement restrictions are put in place in the active Protection Zones and active Surveillance Zones. No movement of birds in, or out, or within etc. The Surveillance zones are in place for about a month, but checking on the APHA website or viewing the interactive map will give you the current picture. Rules revert to Prevention zone rules when the active zones are no longer in the active state.
DEFINITIONS of Avian Influenza Declared Zones
|Zone Name||Description of Zone|
|Protection Zone||A zone at a 3km radius from round the site of an infection – Movement restrictions apply. No birds moved in out or within this zone. Current map of infections and zone status here|
|Surveillance Zone||A wider zone of 10km radius from around the site of an infection – Movement restrictions apply. No birds moved in out or within this zone.|
|Prevention Zone||Refers to the rest of the country not in any active Protection or Surveillance Zones. Bird gatherings are banned but movements are allowed as long as the source has had all the birds in situ for 13 days or more.|
|Increased Biosecurity||Required legally by all areas of the country.|
|Housing Order||All birds must be housed under cover or a roof or nets to exclude wild birds and vermin. No contact to be allowed between any other animal and the poultry or the ground they have access to. This is a Legal requirement as at 00:01 on 29th November 2021. This will remain in place until further notice (most likely April or thereabouts depending on the risk). The Govt website will give updates or if you sign up to the notification service detailed below you will get an update via email or text as per your chosen method.|
The paragraph below is a direct quote from the Governments website.
It is vital that everyone complies with the order to house/segregate/cover, otherwise more birds will die and possibly those close by if they are considered at risk. There is A RISK OF an UNLIMITED fine and possible 3 months imprisonment for those not heeding the law. We can all keep everyones’ birds safe by doing what is required.
What if no-one knows I have poultry?
It is a mistake to think that your poultry are invisible from detection. A hefty fine/imprisonment is levied to anyone who is discovered to have wilfully flouted the rules. The rules are there to stop the spread of the disease. Many commercial operations who could be infected because of garden flocks would be devastated financially. Not to mention the loss of life to so many birds. We all need to do the right thing, it keeps all our birds safe. If a garden flock is infected with AI then they will most likely be dead pretty quickly anyway so it makes sense to protected your own flock by following the rules.
Regardless of what this page says, you should still refer to this Govt website for the very latest position. Advice lines and reporting numbers are also on the page.
In Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you should contact your local APHA office. Again the contact numbers are on the link above.
Register your flock – advised – but not compulsory
The Government are encouraging everyone who keeps birds to sign up to the free poultry register. It is compulsory if you have 50 or more birds but voluntary otherwise. The links to the forms are here There is no intrusion or hoops to jump through which is helpful.
Symptoms of Avian Influenza
There are 2 types of avian influenza.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)
This is the more serious type which 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
- 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)
LPAI is usually less serious but it can cause mild breathing problems, however affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.
The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and also whether it has any other illnesses.
Interactive Map of the current bird flu situation
An interactive map is also here to show you where there are infections and also where tighter restrictions are in place at the moment Interactive map click here
Sign up now for the free alerts service
The government has a free alerts service where they send you a text message or an email with the latest avian influenza news so you know when you are clear or otherwise. It is very useful service. All you need to do is give an email address or a mobile number for either an email or a text message alert.
Sign up here it only takes a minute.
Not just a UK problem
See the map below to see how widespread the 2020/2021 infections are, because as you see, the UK is not alone. Many countries are struggling to gain control. Economic losses are huge for the major producers and exporters who have been prevented from carrying on their normal trading.