Poultry keepers will be required to keep their birds indoors until spring, after the chief veterinary officer decided to extend the avian influenza zone that has been in place since 6 December.
Defra announced the extension, which will be in place until 28 February, following the confirmation of H5N8 in a back yard flock in Carmarthenshire on 3 January.
The zone requires keepers of poultry and other captive birds to continue to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate practical steps to keep them separate from wild birds.
It covers England and similar declarations have been made in Scotland and Wales. There is also a GB-wide ban on poultry shows and gatherings.
If you keep poultry, you must also practice good biosecurity to minimise the risk of infection spreading via items such as feed, clothing or equipment.
Public Health England advises that the risk to public health remains very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.
Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “The Prevention Zone means anyone who keeps poultry such as chickens, ducks and geese, even as pets, must take action to stop them coming into contact with wild birds to protect them from avian flu.
“Birds should be moved into a suitable building, or if that isn’t possible owners must take sensible precautions to keep them away from wild birds, like putting up netting to create a temporary enclosure and keeping food and water supplies inside where they cannot be contaminated by wild birds.
“Even when birds are kept indoors a risk of infection remains so keepers must also practice good biosecurity, for example by disinfecting footwear and equipment and washing clothing after contact with birds.”
The H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza has been circulating in Europe for several weeks. An outbreak was confirmed in turkeys at a farm in Lincolnshire on 16 December and swift action taken to limit the risk of spread, including a 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone around the infected farm.
A further case was confirmed in a back yard flock in Carmarthenshire on 3 January and the Welsh Government has put in place control measures including a 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone around the infected premises.
The disease has also been found in wild birds in Wales, England and Scotland.
Gibbens added: “Recent H5N8 avian flu findings in wild birds and a backyard flock in Wales highlight just how essential it is to minimise contact between wild and captive birds and maintain good biosecurity to reduce the risk of infection.”
All bird keepers must take extra biosecurity steps, including:
minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and wild birds
making sure that feed and water can’t be accessed by wild birds
taking all reasonable precautions to avoid the transfer of contamination between premises, including cleansing and disinfection of equipment, vehicles and footwear
reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept
implementing effective vermin control programmes around buildings where poultry or captive birds are kept
thoroughly cleansing and disinfecting housing and equipment at the end of a production cycle
keeping Defra-approved disinfectant at the right concentration at key points such as farm entrances and entrances to bird houses.