Avian Influenza Official Notification from APHA
Unfortunately Bird Flu (Avian Influenza) has arrived in the UK this year, as if Covid 19 wasn’t enough. The latest strain is predominantly H5N8 which is a Highly Pathogenic strain which means there is a possibility (very very slight) that it has the capacity to infect humans and other mammals. Many thousands of 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.
Following many months of our birds having to be contained the end is in sight. As of 23:59 on the 31st March 2021 the housing order will be lifted. The need for your birds to be housed or cooped up is over on the 1st April. This is not an April Fools however. The UK is still in the grips of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ), the threat level has been reduced from HIGH to MEDIUM. This means that the enhanced biosecurity laws have NOT been lifted just yet. Please keep on with your biosecurity as particularly when you release your birds the ground that they are on has potentially been infected. There is guidance on the APHA site here. For advice from APHA on preparing the ground ready for ranging poultry after Avian Influenza restrictions are relaxed see download link below.
What has the Government done in response
In essence the whole of England has now (as of 14th December 2020) been legally declared a Prevention Zone and a compulsory housing order has been issued. This affects all flocks of captive birds whether they are kept by the 1000’s or a small garden flock. Many thousands of birds have already had to be culled when an infection was found.
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. As this has been issued they are obviously worried about the increased risk. Two turkey farms in North Yorkshire have been infected in close proximity to each other. All birds were culled. This is the risk we all face. This affects ALL keepers of captive birds. No-one is exempt. As of today (15th December 2020) there have been 8 outbreaks in England.
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.
- 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 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.
The Food Standards Agency are also offering reassurance that bird flu will not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. 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. Once the final tests come back and their strain is identified, the following zones are declared. The government use a Protection Zone which is 3km wide zone in the immediate vicinity of the latest cases. Outside of this zone is an avian influenza Surveillance Zone which is a 10km radius from ground zero. Severe movement restrictions are in place in the active Protection Zones and Surveillance Zones. No birds in or out etc.
Places outside of the Protection or Surveillance zones are then called Prevention zones. This year the rest of the country is now placed in this zone. The “housing order” mentioned above, refers to everyone who is in the Prevention Zone, ie everyone outside of an infection area. Sales (movements) are allowed in the Prevention Zone but high biosecurity with regard to transfer, footwear, clothing, vehicles from site to site has to be paramount.
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 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.
Keep an eye on this website for the latest infection situation and the latest guidance. Contact numbers are also on the link
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.