The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed that Avian Influenza of the H5N6 strain has been detected in 17 wild birds in Dorset.
Public Health England have advised the risk to public health is very low with the Food Standards Agency also offering reassurance that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Defra has confirmed that this is different to the strains which affected people in China last year.
This is the first confirmed finding of the virus in the UK this winter and the UK Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) Nigel Gibbens has stated that, although it does not represent a threat to public, it is highly infectious and deadly to birds. There have been a number of cases of H5N6 virus in wild birds in Europe in recent months.
Local measures will be put in place to manage the potential threat. These include a local Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) in Dorset as a precautionary measure to prevent disease spread to other birds. This means all captive bird keepers in the area will have to implement enhanced biosecurity measures such as feeding and watering birds undercover so that wild birds do not co-mingle with kept birds; minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures; cleaning and disinfecting footwear; and keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy.
There are no plans for culling or movement restrictions.
BVA President John Fishwick responded: “I’d encourage vets to reassure their clients that this strain of Avian Influenza poses a very low risk to public health and the food chain. Defra have acted swiftly to try and contain further spread of the disease, which has likely come from migratory birds, yet vets and poultry owners should remain vigilant for signs of the disease.”
British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) President Phil Hammond added: “It’s really important that all bird keepers heed biosecurity advice issued by Defra, and maintain the highest biosecurity standards. Any suspicion of Avian Influenza should be reported to the APHA as soon as possible.”
Up-to-date advice and guidance on Avian Influenza is available on the Gov.UK website, including how to spot it, what to do if you suspect it, and measures to prevent it.
For further advice on Avian Influenza contact the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77.