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Rising avian flu risk means tighter controls on birds

Posted on January 18th, 2018

The Government has today introduced an Avian Flu Prevention Zone in England.

This makes it a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

It comes as H5N6 bird flu was confirmed in 13 wild birds in Warwickshire, after bird flu – highly expected to be the same strain - was found in wild birds in South Dorset on 12 January 2018.

"We’ve introduced a new Avian Influenza Prevention Zone which applies to everyone who keeps poultry or captive birds in England," said an announcement from Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

"All keepers must follow our detailed legal requirements on strict biosecurity, whether they have commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock," it added.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: "Following the latest finding of bird flu in wild birds in Warwickshire, we are extending our action to help prevent the virus spreading to poultry and other domestic birds.

"Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements and this is in your interests to do, to protect your birds from this highly infectious virus."

If you keep poultry and captive birds you must now register your flocks with APHA, report any sick birds, sign up for disease alerts and review your biosecurity.

Bird flu is spread by direct contact between birds and through contamination in the environment, for example in bird droppings. This means wild birds carrying the disease can infect domestic poultry, so the best way to reduce the risk of your poultry catching bird flu is to minimise chances for them to come into contact with wild birds or their droppings by practising good biosecurity, the announcement said.

Bird owners must read Government guidance on good biosecurity and take action to:
* minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
* clean footwear before and after visiting your birds
* keep bird enclosures clean and tidy and regularly disinfect hard surfaces
* humanely control rats and mice
* place birds’ food and water in fully-enclosed areas that wild birds cannot access
* remove any spilled feed
* keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around the outdoor areas they access
* make sure equipment, feed and bedding are stored undercover so they cannot be contaminated by wild birds, and
* where possible keep chickens and turkeys separate from ducks and geese.

To read the DEFRA/APHA announcement in full, click this link.


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