Bird Flu -warning to UK poultry owners
Update 15/0102016: In the last 2 weeks the disease were confirmed 2 in backyard flocks, one in Wales and a second in North Yorkshire
Update 17/12/2016: Bird flu found at a turkey farm in Lincolnshire.
DEFRA, the government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has issued instructions to all poultry keepers to keep them indoors and away from wild birds. This instruction relates to both commercial poultry farmers and owners of backyard flocks. The order has now been extended until 28 January 2017.
Chief Veterinary Officer, Professor Nigel Gibbens said:
- Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good bio-security on their premises.
- Even when birds are housed a risk of infection remains so this must be coupled with good biosecurity – for example disinfecting clothing and equipment, reducing poultry movement and minimising contact between poultry and wild birds.
What is “Bird Flu”?
Avian influenza refers to the flu viruses that occur naturally in wild birds like ducks and geese. They are very contagious and can also infect poultry and other animals.
The symptoms in birds typically include swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and hocks, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, watery diarrhoea and sometimes sudden death.
How is it the virus spread?
Wild waterfowl are often asymptomatic carriers of the disease; the virus is transmitted via their faeces to other birds. The virus can also be carried on clothing or food bowls.
Is there any risk to humans?
Currently the threat to humans remains very low. Transmission to humans is rare and there is no evidence that this particular strain has managed to make the species jump yet. People who catch it usually have had direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environments. There is no risk from eating eggs or poultry.
What can I do to protect my birds?
The advice is to house all poultry for the next 30 days where practical. If you cannot do this, isolate them from wild birds and their faeces. A covered run is better welfare for chickens than being shut in a dark shed. Close mesh may not be enough protection as a roof, polytunnels will work well. Free range hens will need entertainment if suddenly confined such as branches for extra perching, vegetables hung up etc.
What will we do?
We will continue to monitor the situation closely and post updates when new information become available.
You can find more information on the Defra website