Nationwide AI Prevention Zone declared for England, Scotland and Wales

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An Avian Influenza prevention zone has been introduced across the whole of Great Britain, the Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss confirmed on 11 November 2020 after further cases of the disease were found in wild birds.

The UK, Welsh and Scottish governments confirmed the zone will legally require all bird keepers in England, Scotland and Wales to follow strict biosecurity measures, introduced to prevent further spread of Avian Influenza. The announcement follows several cases of HPAI H5N8 found in wild birds and a commercial poultry unit in England, believed to be the same strain that has been reported in continental Europe.

The latest updates on Avian Influenza in the UK can be found here.

The prevention zone requires all bird keepers (including backyard and hobby keepers) in Great Britain to:

  • Take precautions against transfer of virus contamination between sites or premises, including cleansing and disinfection of footwear, vehicles, and equipment.
  • Ensure the areas where birds kept are unattractive to wild birds. For example, by netting ponds and by removing wild bird food sources
  • Feed and water your birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds
  • Minimise movement of people in and out of bird enclosures
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas and fencing off wet or boggy areas.
  • Exercise effective rodent control in areas poultry are kept
  • Record all vehicles and people who enter the premises or come into contact with birds (zoos are exempt)
  • Record all poultry, captive birds and egg movements must be kept and made available to a veterinary inspector on demand
  • Ensure bird housing is well maintained, with any water leaks or contamination routes rectified

For free ranging poultry, all bird keepers (including backyard and hobby keepers) in Great Britain must fence and secure all outdoor range areas to keep birds within the range, and actively manage ranges to ensure the following:

  • The range area contains no feathers or faecal material from wild birds, and any carcases of wild birds are promptly removed
  • Access to open or standing water is restricted – i.e. fencing off or netting ponds or waterlogged land
  • Birds are not allowed access to anywhere they may come into contact with poultry on a neighbour’s site
  • Feed and water are kept indoors, and no feeding to take place in ranging areas
  • Actively discourage wild birds from entering fenced outdoor areas (for example using bird scarers, foils, streamers)
  • Any concrete paths or similar walkways are cleaned and disinfected regularly

Additionally, keepers with more than 500 birds are required to take extra biosecurity measures, including

  • Operating effective barrier hygiene, including changing clothing and footwear before entering and exiting the live-bird area
  • Access to live-bird area is restricted to authorised personnel and essential equipment and vehicles
  • Thorough cleansing and disinfecting of housing and equipment must be carried out at the end of a production cycle before any new birds are introduced
  • Regularly inspect structural integrity of any building used to house poultry for holes and leaks, with particular emphasis on roofs, gutters, and downpipes.  Any holes and leaks must be repaired without undue delay as previous cases of avian influenza have been linked to water ingress and flooding
  • Egg producers will need to ensure the packing, handling, and storage of second quality eggs / farm seconds is a managed in a biosecure manner.
  • Egg trays must be cleansed and disinfected before use and records maintained as above

Keepers can read more about the biosecurity measures they need to introduce here. 

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said:

“I have today declared a national Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) legislating for actions all bird keepers must take to help prevent the disease spreading to more poultry and other domestic birds.

“Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that bird flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements and this is in your interests to do, to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

NFU chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony said:

“It is vital that all keepers of poultry ensure they have the relevant biosecurity measures in place to protect their birds from any risk of Avian Influenza.

“The health and welfare of their birds is a farmer’s top priority and practicing good biosecurity is the best way of guarding them from this disease.

“The NFU remains in close dialogue with both Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to ensure we can continue to support our members with advice and guidance.

“It is important keepers remain vigilant and promptly report any concerns to your private vet or directly to the APHA on 03000 200301.”

The prevention zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review by Defra.

Keepers are encouraged to read the latest government advice on avian influenza in the UK and to sign up to Defra’s poultry register in order to be quickly updated with information and advice.

In these uncertain and often challenging times it is more important than ever to look after our own and others’ mental health.  If you or anyone you know are experiencing anxiety or stress then help and support is available nationally via the Farming Community Network (FCN) and Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) websites.  The Prince’s Countryside Fund has also published a directory of local farm and rural support groups.

More information:

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