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Keep your birds safe against avian flu after outbreak confirmed


By David G Scott

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The chief veterinary officers for the UK have agreed to bring in new housing 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, which will come into force on Monday, November 29, 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.

Birds must be kept indoors and owners must follow strict biosecurity measures from November 29 in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease. Picture: DGS
Birds must be kept indoors and owners must follow strict biosecurity measures from November 29 in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease. Picture: DGS

Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months can carry the disease and this can lead to cases in poultry and other captive birds.

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.

Government chief veterinary officers are encouraging bird keepers to use the next five 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 November 3.

The introduction of housing measures means that from November 29, in addition to housing all poultry and captive birds, keepers must continue taking extra precautions to keep their flocks safe. This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles when entering or exiting sites and limiting access to non-essential workers or visitors.

The public is advised to report finds of dead birds. Picture: DGS
The public is advised to report finds of dead birds. Picture: DGS

The chief veterinary officers from across all four nations have worked together to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions will be applied across the whole of the UK.

In a joint statement the UK’s four chief veterinary officers said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.

Avian flu. Picture: DGS
Avian flu. Picture: DGS

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday 29 November onwards you will be 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, taking this action now 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.

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 new housing measures will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.

Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find. In Great Britain, if you find a single dead bird of prey, gull or wild waterfowl (particularly swans, geese or ducks) or find five or more birds of any other species in the same location and at the same time, you should report them to the national Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77 – please select option 7).

Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease in Scotland to your local Field Services Office.

Avian influenza is in no way connected to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is not carried in poultry or captive birds.

The outbreak assessment following recent cases in the UK is available online at www.gov.uk/government/publications/avian-influenza-bird-flu-in-europe


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