The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has declared a bird flu prevention zone across the whole of England, requiring all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.
The decision comes after 13 dead wild birds were confirmed to have the virus in Warwickshire.
Last week 17 wild birds were tested positive in Dorset and 31 infected birds have now been identified at the Dorset site. At that time Defra responded by putting a local prevention zone in place and, now it is known the disease is not isolated to the Dorset site, the prevention zone has been extended across the country as a precautionary measure.
The prevention zone means bird keepers across the country must:
- Make areas where birds are kept unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds and by removing wild bird food sources;
- Feed and water birds in enclosed areas;
- Minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures;
- Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy;
- Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.
Those keepers who have more than 500 birds will need to take extra biosecurity measures that include restricting access to non-essential people, changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles.
The birds in Warwickshire are still being tested but it is expected that it will be the same H5N6 strain of bird flu that was found in the wild birds in Dorset and has been circulating wild birds across Europe. Public Health England have advised the risk to public health is very low with the Food Standards Agency also offering reassurance that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.
Defra has confirmed that this is different to the strains which affected people in China last year.
Although it does not represent a threat to public, the UK Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) Nigel Gibbens has stated that, it is highly infectious and deadly to birds.
BVA President John Fishwick responded: “I’d encourage vets to reassure their clients that this strain of Avian Influenza poses a very low risk to public health and the food chain.
“However, there is clearly a need to try to contain further spread of the disease, which has almost certainly come from migratory birds, and vets and poultry owners should follow the new prevention zone measures and remain vigilant for signs of bird flu.”
British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) President Phil Hammond added: “It’s really important that all bird keepers heed biosecurity advice issued by Defra, and maintain the highest biosecurity standards. Any suspicion of Avian Influenza should be reported to the APHA as soon as possible.”
Up-to-date advice and guidance on Avian Influenza is available on the Gov.UK website, including how to spot it, what to do if you suspect it, and measures to prevent it.