If you keep birds, whether commercially or as pets, no doubt you will be carefully following the news on Bird Flu this Winter. The number of cases in the UK have been unprecedented and the measures brought in to control the spread of the disease by DEFRA have been extensive. Comprehensive guidance is available from DEFRA at www.gov.uk/bird-flu. Below is a brief overview of the current situation.
National Avian Influenza Prevention Zone - current requirements
Following a change in the risk levels and an increase in the number of detections of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in kept and wild birds, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain. This was to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.
This has meant that since midday on Monday 17 October 2022, it has been a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the threat of Bird Flu. Visit the GOV.UK website for information on the mandatory biosecurity measures. They also have practical advice and 'Stop the Spread' webinars.
From 7 November 2022, the terms of the National Avian Influenza Prevention Zone were extended to require all captive birds to be housed. The full details are available in the national Avian Influenza Prevention Zone Declaration and guidance on how to house your birds safely is available at gov.uk.
Specific advice was also published regarding the flying of racing pigeons and captive birds of prey.
On 9 January 2023 the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was amended further, introducing a new measure for wild game birds "caught up" during the open season (under the Game Act 1831) - they must not be moved until a minimum of 21 days from the date of catching-up has elapsed.
These measures apply from 9 January 2023 and will remain in force until the declaration is amended or revoked by further declaration in writing. Full details are available in the national Avian Influenza Prevention Zone Declaration, and additional guidance can be found on gov.uk
Current disease control zones in Huntingdonshire
DEFRA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have put in place the following disease control zones. They impose certain obligations and restrictions on all bird keepers, whether they are commercial keepers or have a backyard flock.
Winwick area (infected premises near Oundle) - 3km Protection Zone and 10km Surveillance Zone (7 November)
Great Gidding area (second infected premises near Oundle) - 3km Protection Zone and 10km Surveillance Zone (14 November)
Great Gidding area (third infected premises near Oundle) - 3km Protection Zone and 10km Surveillance Zone (15 November)
Somersham Zone lifted
On 11 March the 10km Surveillance Zone was lifted by DEFRA. This follows the revocation of the 3km Protection Zone on 3 March. However, whilst the specific disease control measures for Somersham have now all been lifted, the national Avian Influenza Protection Zone continues to be in force, and it is important the residents continue to adhere to those requirements.
If you are not sure if you fall within any of the zones, you can put the postcode of the location of your bird stock into APHA's Interactive Disease Map. It will indicate if any of the zones extend to your birds' location.
These zone requirements and obligations are in addition to those within the national Avian Influenza Prevention Zone Order.
Be aware of the symptoms of Bird Flu and check your birds regularly for these. Advice on symptoms and how to report concerns is on the GOV.UK website.
- Swollen head
- Blue discolouration of neck and throat
- Loss of appetite
- Respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
- Fewer eggs laid
- Increased mortality
Report disease symptoms in your own birds
If you keep birds and notice possible Bird Flu symptoms, you are legally obliged to report these to DEFRA's Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200301. Bird Flu is classified as a 'Notifiable Disease'.
When and how to report dead wild birds to DEFRA
If you come across:
- One or more dead bird of prey
- Three or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese, ducks)
- Five or more dead birds of any species
You should either:
- Call DEFRA to report the bird(s) on 03459 33 55 77
- Complete DEFRA's online form on the GOV.UK website
DEFRA also welcomes reports of any other species or numbers of dead wild birds.
If you report a dead wild bird, DEFRA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) may arrange to collect it and test it. If they are going to do this, it will happen within four days. They collect and test dead wild birds to help explain where Bird Flu is spreading in Great Britain and in which types of birds.
Do not touch or pick up dead or visibly sick birds. It is important that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water if you do touch any dead birds, droppings, feathers or material that has touched the dead bird.
For advice on disposing of dead wild birds, whether you are a member of the public or a landowner, please view guidance on removing and disposing of dead wild birds on the GOV.UK website.
Register your stock
Bird keepers with more than 50 birds, whether all the same species or a mixture, must register them by law with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Those with less than 50 birds are also strongly encouraged to register their birds with the APHA.
To register, visit the Poultry (including game birds): registration rules and forms on the GOV.UK website. This also aids communication with you in the event of a confirmed case in your locality.
Report a breach of the rules
Compliance with the national requirements, as well as the specific zone requirements, is essential to help stop the further spread of the disease. Trading Standards is responsible for enforcement of any breaches. We welcome information from the public about suspected breaches.
Please contact Trading Standards via our Customer Services Team on 0345 045 5206.
Register for Bird Flu updates
The Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) runs a free disease alerts service for bird keepers. This keeps you up to date with the latest Bird Flu developments.
Risk to human health
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that Bird Flu is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public's health is very low. Nevertheless, we strongly discourage you from touching dead birds or those showing symptoms of the disease.
Furthermore, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said that, on the basis of current scientific evidence, Bird Flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
If you employ people who work with poultry, or you work with poultry yourself, you can also read advice on protecting workers from Bird Flu on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.
For more information, read the Bird Flu guidance on the GOV.UK website.