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Avian influenza cases confirmed in Angus as Prevention Zone restrictions are activated across Great Britain


By David Porter

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Following a number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds across Great Britain, the chief veterinary officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across the whole of Great Britain to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.

This means that from now on it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks.

Keepers with more than 500 birds will need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers will need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles will need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Avian influenza circulates naturally in wild birds and when they migrate to the UK from mainland Europe over the winter they can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.

Backyard owners with smaller numbers of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese must also take steps to limit the risk of the disease spreading to their animals.

The UK health agencies advise that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the UK food standards agencies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

The disease has been confirmed in captive birds in the Angus constituency at a property near Arbroath which tested positive for avian influenza (H5N1) on Monday.

In order to limit the further spread of disease, appropriate restrictions have been imposed on the premises.

The remaining birds at the premises will be humanely culled and three kilometre and 10 kilometre Temporary Control Zones have been set up around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease.

Within these zones, a range of different controls are now in place.

These include restrictions on the movement of poultry, carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “With the recent disease confirmations in wild and captive birds in the UK, it is not unexpected for avian influenza to be found in birds here.

"Temporary Control Zones have been put in place around the infected premises and we ask that the public remain vigilant and report any findings of dead wild birds.”

Chief vet Sheila Voas
Chief vet Sheila Voas

Scotland’s chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: “We are conducting further tests to establish the pathogenicity of avian influenza H5N1 in a flock of birds in the Angus constituency.

“We have already made clear that all bird keepers – whether major businesses or small keepers with just a few birds – must ensure that their biosecurity is up to scratch to protect their birds from disease.

"Keepers who are concerned about the health or welfare of their flock should seek veterinary advice immediately.

"Private vets, or the local Animal and Plant Health Agency office, will also be able to provide practical advice on keeping birds safe from infection.

“If a single dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), a single dead bird of prey, or five or more dead wild birds of any other species (including gulls) are found at the same place at the same time, this should be reported to Defra’s national helpline.

"Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds.”

In a joint statement the chief veterinary officers for England, Scotland and Wales said: “Following a number of detections of avian influenza in wild birds across Great Britain we have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone across the whole of Great Britain.

"This means that all bird keepers must take action now to prevent the disease spreading to poultry and other domestic birds

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to introduce higher biosecurity standards on your farm or small holding. It is in your interests to do so in order to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease

“The UK health agencies have confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and UK food standards agencies advise that bird flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.”

The introduction of an AIPZ follows a decision to raise the risk level for avian influenza incursion in wild Birds in Great Britain from ‘medium’ to ‘high’.

For poultry and captive birds the risk level has been raised from ‘low’ to ‘medium’ at premises where biosecurity is below the required standards, but remains ‘low’ where stringent biosecurity measures are applied.

The AIPZ now in force across Great Britain does not include a requirement to house birds, however, this is being kept under constant review.

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) means bird keepers across the country must-

Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry;

Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources;

Feed and water their birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;

Minimise movement into and out of bird enclosures;

Cleanse and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy;

Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas;

Keep free ranging birds within fenced areas, and ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off (except in specific circumstances eg zoo birds).

The prevention zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to monitor and manage the risks of bird flu.

Poultry keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to Defra’s national dead wild bird helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (please select option 7) and keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA on 03000 200 301.


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