The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss is urging all poultry keepers not to be complacent and to continue following the urgent biosecurity measures needed to keep their birds safe and help stop the spread of bird flu.
The UK is tackling its largest ever outbreak of bird flu with nearly 100 cases confirmed across the country since the start of November. To help mitigate the spread of disease, the Government introduced new housing measures on 29 November 2021 which means that if you keep chickens, ducks, geese or any other birds you are legally required to keep them indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures. If you do not do this, the disease could kill your birds and you could be fined.
Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months and other wildlife spread the disease so it is vital to not allow wild birds to mix with your chickens, ducks, geese or other birds.
People can also spread the disease on their clothes and shoes so before going into bird enclosures you should wash your hands, and change or clean and disinfect your footwear.
The Chief Veterinary Officer is reminding all poultry keepers that whilst the main source of infection comes from migratory wild birds, those failing to implement these measures risk infecting their own flocks by walking the virus into their holdings. Keepers should therefore continue to follow the strict biosecurity measures in place to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.
“We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease including introducing housing measures. However we are still seeing a number of bird flu cases both on commercial farms and in backyard birds right across the country,” said Christine Middlemiss.
“Many poultry keepers have excellent biosecurity standards but the number of cases we are seeing suggests that not enough is being done to keep bird flu out. Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands you must take action now to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.
“The avian flu outbreak has not gone away and implementing scrupulous biosecurity remains absolutely critical. You must continue to regularly clean and disinfect your footwear and clothes before entering enclosures, stop your birds mixing with any wild birds and only allow visitors that are strictly necessary. It is your actions that will help keep your birds safe.”
The legal requirement to house birds and to step up biosecurity measures will remain in force until further notice but be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.