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Bird housing rules to fight avian flu are set to end

By Lewis McBlane

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THE SCOTTISH Government has urged bird keepers to stay cautious as bird flu housing restrictions end after the UK's largest ever outbreak.

Free range chickens – returning to the great outdoors.
Free range chickens – returning to the great outdoors.

Rules to limit the spread of bird flu are ending next Monday (May 2), though the Chief Veterinary Officers have emphasised the remaining danger posed by the virus.

From May 2, poultry and other birds will be allowed outside again.

Since the outbreak began in late October, the UK has seen over 100 confirmed cases of the virus including several in Aberdeenshire, making it the worst bird flu outbreak in British history.

In a joint statement, the four Chief Veterinary Officers said: “Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe."

Though rules are changing, the Government also confirmed that the ban on all poultry gatherings will stay.

Detailed guidance is also in place for people intending to let their birds outside, including measures like thorough cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will remain in force across the UK, with only the housing measures component being lifted from Monday, May 2.

The Chief Veterinary Officers said: “It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers and vets, who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter, that we are in a position to take this action.

"However, the recent cases of avian influenza show that it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.”

The public is also being urged, again, to follow Scottish Government guidance about limiting bird flu.

The guidance says-

Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find.

If you find dead swans, geese or ducks or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

Public health advice is that the risk to human health is very low.

Food Standards Scotland advises that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and it does not change their current advice on consumption of poultry products including eggs.

Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease by contacting their local Field Services Office.

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