Poultry industry in lockdown to limit spread of avian flu

New lockdown measures have been announced for the country’s poultry industry – and, from November 29, it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.

Cases have been seen in poultry. (Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Cases have been seen in poultry. (Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

The Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland yesterday agreed to bring in the new housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds from avian influenza following a growing number of confirmed cases across Great Britain in recent weeks.

Defra said that wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months could carry the disease and this has led to cases in poultry and other captive birds.

A public health spokesperson said that the risk to human health from the virus was very low and food standards bodies advised that avian influenzas posed a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, adding that there were no concerns about the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.

However the public was advised not to touch or pick up any dead or sick birds and instead report them to the relevant helpline.

The Chief Veterinary Officers encouraged bird keepers to use the next five days to prepare for the new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and put up additional housing where necessary. They said that in addition keepers should continue to take extra precautions to keep their flocks safe.

This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles when entering or exiting sites and limiting access to non-essential workers or visitors.

In a joint statement which covers the whole of the UK, the four Chief Veterinary Officers said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds. Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from November 29 onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, taking this action now is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be 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.

The order requires keepers to: house or net all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild birds; improve hygiene measures including disinfecting clothes and footwear; reduce human and vehicle contact with birds; cleanse and disinfect housing regularly; minimise contact with wild birds.

A spokesperson also added that Avian influenza was in no way connected to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and said it was not carried in poultry or captive birds.

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