Avian influenza prevention

The Chief Veterinary Officers for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have agreed to bring in new measures to protect poultry and captive birds from avian influenza, following a number of confirmed cases across Great Britain in recent weeks.

The new housing measures will come into force at 00:01 (am) on 29 November 2021, and mean that it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.

Government Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging bird keepers to use the following days to prepare for the new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and put up additional housing where necessary.

The additional housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity regulations that were brought in across Great Britain as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) on 3 November 2021 and in and Northern Ireland on 17 November 2021. 

The introduction of housing measures means that from 00:01 (am) on 29 November, in addition to housing all poultry and captive birds, keepers must continue taking extra precautions to keep their flocks safe.

Poultry keepers must now do the following:

  • house or net all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild birds
  • cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reduce 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 use effective vermin control
  • thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
  • minimise 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

These biosecurity precautions apply just as much if you only have a few birds as pets, or if you have a large commercial flock.  An outbreak of avian influenza in back garden chickens results in the same restrictions on movement of birds.  It has the same impact on farmers and trade in poultry as an outbreak on a commercial farm would have.  Good biosecurity improves the overall health and productivity of your flock by helping keep out poultry diseases, such as avian influenza, and limiting the spread of disease during an outbreak.

Further details of the measures that will apply in the AIPZ can be found in the AIPZ declaration and guidance and a biosecurity checklist will be made available and will be shared with you shortly.

Public health advice remains 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. Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find and instead report them to the relevant helpline below. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.

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. 

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 Defra’s national helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (please select option 7). For further information see our advice to the public.

Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease in Scotland to your local APHA Field Services Office.  For further information please see www.gov.scot/avianinfluenza

REHIS is a registered charity in Scotland, SC009406

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