The chief vets from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are urging bird keepers to maintain and strengthen their farm biosecurity measures in order to prevent further outbreaks of avian influenza in the UK.
On Friday the risk level of avian influenza incursion in wild birds in Great Britain was raised from medium to high following two unrelated confirmed cases in England this week and increasing reports of the disease affecting flocks in mainland Europe.
All bird keepers are being urged to prevent direct or indirect contact with wild birds, with the risk of infection of poultry in Great Britain also being raised from ‘low’ to ‘medium’. Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter period can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.
Northern Ireland’s risk of avian influenza incursion remains medium for wild birds and low for poultry, but is being kept under constant review.
A statement from the UK’s four chief veterinary officers said: “Following two confirmed cases of avian influenza in England and further cases reported in mainland Europe, we have raised the risk level for incursion to Great Britain from migratory birds to high. We have also raised the risk level for the disease being introduced to poultry farms in Great Britain to medium. While Northern Ireland’s risk level is currently medium for wild birds and low for poultry, the situation is being kept under constant review.
“We have acted quickly to prevent the spread of disease at both sites in England and are continuing to monitor the situation closely. Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease and report suspected disease immediately.
“It is important now more than ever that bird keepers ensure they are doing all they can to maintain and strengthen good biosecurity on their premises to ensure we prevent further outbreaks.
The UK has robust biosecurity measures and monitoring in place to prevent the disease spreading in this country and the risk of transmission of avian influenza viruses to the general public in the UK remains very low.”
Key biosecurity measures are:
- Keeping the area where birds live clean and tidy, controlling rats and mice and regularly cleansing and disinfecting any hard surfaces
- Cleaning footwear before and after visits
- Placing birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and removing any spilled feed regularly
- Putting fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limiting their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl
- Where possible, avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species.
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 reduce the risk of disease.