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UK lifts stringent bird flu prevention measures

The UK eased heightened biosecurity measures for poultry keepers, but advises producers to remain vigilant for signs of infection.

17 May 2021, at 7:41am

The Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales are advising poultry keepers to remain vigilant as the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was lifted on 15 May.

These additional biosecurity measures, which were introduced across Great Britain in November 2020, have been vital in protecting flocks across the country from the disease which is circulating in wild birds.

Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government have been working closely with industry and bird keepers to ensure that there are strict biosecurity measures in and around poultry premises to help keep flocks safe.

The risk of bird flu in poultry with good biosecurity has now been reduced to "low" for all poultry. As a result, the mandatory enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the AIPZ on 11 November and the additional biosecurity measures introduced on 31 March have now been lifted.

In a joint statement, Great Britain’s three Chief Veterinary Officers said:

This will be welcome news for bird keepers across the country who have put great effort into keeping their flocks safe this winter.

We have taken swift action to contain and eliminate this disease, and we urge all bird keepers – whether they have just a few birds or thousands – to continue to do their bit to maintain strict biosecurity measures on their premises, so that we do not lose the progress that we have made over the past few months. Low risk does not mean no risk.

All poultry and bird gatherings, including pigeon gatherings organized for races from mainland Europe, will also be permitted, provided organizers notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency at least seven days before the event takes place and that they comply with the provisions of the new General Licence.

Public health advice is that the risk to human health from the H5N8 virus strain is low and from the H5N2, H5N5 and H5N1 virus strains is very low. Food standards bodies also advise that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers and does not affect the consumption of poultry products, including eggs.

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to remain 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:

  • Fencing off ponds, streams, boggy areas or standing water and draining them where possible
  • Netting or covering ponds
  • Removing any wild bird feed sources
  • Deterring wild birds by regularly walking through the area or by using predator decoys
  • Cleansing and disinfecting concrete or other permeable areas
  • Putting down wood shavings in wet areas
  • Limiting the number of people who come onto the site
  • Using disinfectant foot dips when entering and exiting enclosures or houses

Poultry and captive bird keepers and members of the public should continue to report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (option 7), and keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA in England on 03000 200 301, Wales on 0300 3038268 and in Scotland through the Local Field Service Office.

Poultry keepers should familiarize themselves with Defra's avian flu advice.