Categories: Health News

News: Avian influenza (bird flu): Latest situation

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.

To assist all bird keepers in complying with the new rules we have updated the biosecurity guidance and published a new biosecurity self-assessment checklist.


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:

  • housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
  • cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and using effective vermin control
  • thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
  • keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry and captive bird housing or enclosures
  • minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds

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:

  • H5N2 (low pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a site near Deal in Kent on 2 November.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a site near Frodsham in Cheshire on 2 November
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a broiler breeder farm near Leominster in Herefordshire on 10 November .
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza was confirmed at a site near Stroud in Gloucestershire on 19 November.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) confirmed at a premises near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire on 21 November.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) influenza confirmed at two premises near Northallerton, North Yorkshire on 29 November and 1 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) influenza confirmed at a premises near Attleborough, Breckland, Norfolk on 4 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a premises near King’s Lynn, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, Norfolk on 5 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a wild bird rescue centre near Droitwich Spa, Wychavon, Worcestershire on 13 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed at a premises near Near Willington, South Derbyshire, Derbyshire on 15 December.
  • H5N1 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed in backyard chickens near Hawes, Richmondshire, North Yorkshire on 18 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed in breeding ducks at a premises near Attleborough, Norfolk on 19 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed in a backyard flock near Gillingham, Dorset on 19 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed in captive birds near Attleborough, Norfolk on 26 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed in rearing ducks at a premises near Watton, Norfolk on 28 December.
  • H5N8 (highly pathogenic) avian influenza confirmed in backyard poultry at a premises near Exmouth, West Devon, Devon on 29 December.
  • H5N8 (pathogenicity to be confirmed) was confirmed in laying chickens at a premises near Redcar, Redcar & Cleveland on 6 February 2021.

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.

Larry John

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