The risk of avian influenza in poultry where good biosecurity is practised has now been reduced to ‘low’.
As a result, the mandatory enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) on 11 November 2020 and the additional biosecurity measures introduced on 31 March 2021 cease to apply from midday on 15 May 2021.
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. 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.
The Chief Veterinary Officers (CVO) from England, Scotland and Wales advised poultry keepers to remain vigilant as the announcement was made that the AIPZ would be lifted from midday on 15 May 2021.
In a joint statement, the CVOs 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.”
What is the current situation?
Rules on bird gatherings
All poultry and bird gatherings, including pigeon gatherings organised for races from mainland Europe, will also be permitted, provided organisers notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) at least seven days before the event takes place and that they comply with the provisions of the new general licence for bird gatherings.
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.
NFU chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony said:
“All poultry keepers have played a crucial role in minimising the threat of avian influenza and have therefore contributed to allowing these measures to be lifted.
"Whether you are a commercial farmer with thousands of birds or somebody with one hen in the garden, all bird keepers are advised to remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.”
How to maintain good biosecurity
You can help prevent avian influenza by maintaining good biosecurity on your premises, by:
- 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
How to report cases in wild birds
- 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).
- Poultry keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA in England on 03000 200 301 and in Wales on 0300 3038268.