The Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland and Wales have agreed to bring in new measures to help protect poultry and captive birds, following a number of cases of avian influenza in both wild and captive birds in the UK.
The new housing measures, which came into force on 14 December, mean that is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.
Public health advice is that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and it does not affect the consumption of poultry products including eggs.
Multiple species of wild birds have been found to be positive for avian influenza in locations across England. Wild birds can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds so keeping poultry and captive birds separate from wild birds is key.
These housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity regulations that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Protection Zone (AIPZ) on 11 November. The AIPZ means that all poultry and captive bird keepers need to take extra precautions, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-essential people on their sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.
The UK Government has worked closely with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions have been applied across the whole of Great Britain.
A joint statement from Great Britain’s three Chief Veterinary Officers said:
We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and have introduced a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.
Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.
Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns. They can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, including:
The new housing measures will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.
The introduction of the these new measures follows a number of confirmed cases of avian influenza in England. This includes:
In each case Defra has acted quickly to cull affected birds and to introduce movement restrictions to limit the risk of the disease spreading.
Poultry and captive bird keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (option 7), and keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA on 03000 200 301. Keepers should familiarise themselves with our avian flu advice.
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