Birds to be kept inside as precaution against growing avian flu risk
Written by staff reporter
Poultry keepers across much of the UK have been told to keep their birds inside to protect them from a highly-infectious strain of avian flu in Europe. The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer and the Scottish and Welsh Governments announced Avian Influenza Prevention Zones for England, Scotland and Wales to help protect poultry from the highly pathogenic strain of Avian Influenza (H5N8) currently circulating in mainland Europe. All zones across Great Britain will remain in place for 30 days and during that time keepers of poultry and other captive birds will be required to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.
The H5N8 bird flu strain has been found in poultry and wild birds in 14 countries including Germany and France, although the government’s chief vet Professor Nigel Gibbens said that the risk to humans was low and no UK cases had been found.
France this week raised to ‘high’ the risk level across the country after the detection of several cases of H5N8 in farms in South-west France and in wild ducks in Northern France according to the French farm ministry. In a statement, it said the decision was also motivated by the “rapid change in the... situation in France and in several European countries”.
France has the largest poultry flock in the EU and is still recovering from a severe bird flu epidemic in South-western France earlier this year which led to a total halting of duck and geese output in the region and import restrictions from trading partners.
The UK’s precautionary measures announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) apply to farmers and anyone in England who keeps any birds, even individuals with a few chickens in their back garden. Farmers are being asked to look for signs of infection and to take stringent disinfectant measures, whilst London Zoo announced this week that it has temporarily closed its walk-through bird enclosures to minimise risk of infection to its birds.
Responding to the declarations, Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “These are sensible precautions to protect captive birds and poultry across Great Britain from the threat of migratory birds spreading this disease. We would urge poultry keepers to be vigilant and get veterinary help and advice at an early stage.
“It is important to understand that there is no Avian Influenza in the UK at the moment and there has been no evidence to date that the disease poses any threat to human health whatsoever.”