Avian influenza – essential information

Avian influenza what you need to know NFU graphic

This page provides key information on the latest AI (avian influenza) outbreak and includes useful links to NFU guidance and advice, as well as where to find information on GOV.UK. 

Important

If you suspect bird flu in poultry or other captive birds, you must report it immediately by calling Defra on 03000 200 301

Any dead waterfowl or wild birds that you find on your land must be reported to Defra so they can be tested.

 

Avian Influenza in 2023/24 – latest information

To keep up to date with the latest cases as they happen head over to our latest news page.

Use our AI case finder

Our AI case finder allows you to find current and lifted cases of avian influenza at any particular location. It is being updated regularly with information on the latest cases, including the restrictions that apply in the Disease Control Zones around the infected premises.

Current risk levels

The risk levels are currently:

  • Medium for wild birds
  • Low for all poultry

More information on the current risk level can be found by visiting: Avian influenza (bird flu): Risk level | GOV.UK.

Housing measures – what you need to know

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds in place in all areas of England and Wales were removed from 00:01 on Tuesday 18 April 2023.

You can read more about the latest guidance for enhanced biosecurity in England and Wales at: Housing rules lifted for all poultry in England and Wales

View our timeline of key dates to see what measures were brought in and when. 

Use Defra’s interactive map to check if you are in a Disease Control Zone and need to implement extra measures.

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Examples of good and poor biosecurity

Following producer feedback on sharing best practice, the APHA and Poultry Health and Welfare Group, of which the NFU is a member, have jointly compiled a photobook showing examples of biosecurity best practice.

It includes common biosecurity breaches to help poultry keepers identify potential improvements to their own biosecurity.

NFU members: Download a copy of the biosecurity photobook.

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Bird gatherings

Bird gatherings include (but are not limited to) fairs, markets, shows, sales, exhibitions and some premises used for dealing or internet sales. In addition, vehicles used to transport live poultry where the birds are brought together from multiple premises (so called many-to-one or many-to-many activities) are also considered gatherings.

Detailed information on what does and not does qualify as a poultry gathering in England can be found at: General licence to arrange a fair, market, show, exhibition or other gathering involving the collecting together of poultry or captive birds in England | GOV.UK

 

Information on the rules in Wales can be found at: General licence to arrange a fair, market, show, exhibition or other gathering involving the collecting together of captive birds in Wales | GOV.WALES

 

Currently, the risk of introduction and spread of avian influenza (H5N1) during bird gatherings in Great Britain is assessed as: 

  • Low for Psittaciformes, Columbiformes, birds of prey, passerines and Galliformes
  • Medium for Anseriformes (ducks and geese)

England

From 23 August 2023, the rules around bird gatherings have changed as follows: 

  • Gatherings of Galliforme poultry and Galliforme birds are permitted, providing:
    • The requirements of the poultry gathering general licence have been met;
    • APHA are notified of the gathering at least seven days before the event takes place
  • Gatherings of all other types of birds, except Anseriforme poultry and Anseriforme birds are permitted, providing:
    • The requirements of the captive bird gathering general licence or poultry gathering general licence have been met;
    • APHA are notified of the gathering at least seven days before the event takes place
  • Gatherings of Anseriformes birds remain prohibited

Find out more on the rules about bird gatherings in England: Guidance: Hold a bird gathering | GOV.UK

Scotland

From 12 noon on Monday 5 February 2024: 

  • Gatherings of Anseriforme birds remain prohibited. 
  • Gatherings of Galliforme poultry, and all other types of bird are permitted, providing: 
    • The requirements of the captive bird gathering general licence in Scotland have been met;
    • APHA are notified of the gathering at least seven days before the event takes place
  • Galliforme poultry and Galliforme birds from Scotland are permitted to attend bird gatherings in England.

For the rules in Scotland, please visit: Bird gatherings: guidance | GOV.SCOT

Wales

  • Gatherings of poultry (Galliforme and Anseriforme birds) remain prohibited.
  • Gatherings of all other types of birds are permitted, providing:
    • The requirements of the captive bird gathering general licence in Wales have been met;
    • APHA are notified of the gathering at least seven days before the event takes place
  • Galliforme poultry and Galliforme birds from Wales are not permitted to attend bird gatherings in England or Scotland.

The rules in Wales can be found at: Bird gatherings: general licence for gatherings | GOV.WALES

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Quick links to Defra's guidance

We've provided useful links to help you navigate around GOV.UK:

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AI – the situation as it has developed

04 July 2023

The AIPZ in place across Great Britain was lifted by the United Kingdom's Chief Veterinary Officer.

18 April 2023

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry in England and Wales have been removed, following a decision by the United Kingdom’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

View the announcement at: GOV.UK | Bird keepers must maintain scrupulous biosecurity standards as housing measures set to be lifted

The announcement from the Welsh Government can be read at: GOV.WALES | Avian Influenza: Housing Order to be lifted on 18 April

27 February 2023

The grace period for 'free range eggs' ends in the rest of England. Read: Avian influenza and 'free range' status – what does the law say?

1 February 2023

The grace period for Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex ended.

Under the relevant legislation, eggs that are laid after the grace period ends that are from hens which continue to be housed, can no longer be marketed as 'free range' eggs and must be labeled as 'barn eggs' instead. Read: Avian influenza and 'free range' status – what does the law say?

9 January 2023

The AIPZ was updated to introduce a 21 day standstill rule for all game birds that are caught up in the open season. Read: Avian influenza and game bird shoots – what's permitted?

2 December 2022

NFU Cymru welcomed news that mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds are to be introduced to all areas of Wales from Friday 2 December as a protection against Avian Influenza.

The news comes shortly after NFU Cymru wrote to Welsh Government requesting that mandatory housing measures be urgently introduced. Visit: NFU Cymru welcomes Avian Influenza housing order for birds in Wales

7 November 2022

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds were introduced to all areas of England from 00:01 on Monday 7 November, following a decision by the United Kingdom’s Chief Veterinary Officer. View the declaration at Defra | Declaration of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone -
including housing measures (England)

17 October 2022

A nationwide AIPZ (Avian Influenza Prevention Zone) has been declared across Great Britain. It's now a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict biosecurity measures to protect their flocks. Read: Nationwide Avian Influenza Prevention Zone declared | NFUonline.com

12 October 2022

Regional housing measures came into effect on Wednesday 12 October 2022 for parts of the east of England. The housing measures came into force from 00.01 on 12 October and build on the strengthened biosecurity measures brought in as part of the AIPZ (Avian Influenza Prevention Zone) on 27 September 2022, covering Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex. Read: AIPZ in east of England including new housing measures | NFUonline.com

1 October 2022

Defra declared the start of the 2022/2023 avian influenza outbreak. The 2021/2022 came to a close on 30 September. These are dates that authorities use for reporting means, although cases continued throughout both periods. 

27 September 2022

A regional AIPZ was declared covering Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex. The AIPZ in the east of England was active from 12noon on the 27 September. Read: Regional AIPZ declared | NFUonline

16 August 2022

The risk of avian influenza was reduced to low for all poultry. Defra confirmed that the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone for poultry and captive birds would be lifted at midday on 16 August. 

2 May 2022

Mandatory housing measures were lifted. Poultry and other captive birds no longer need to be housed, unless they are in a Protection Zone, and are allowed to be kept outside.

29 November 2021

Mandatory housing measures came into force across the UK – all captive bird keepers are required to house their birds to prevent the spread of avian influenza. This is in addition to the biosecurity measures already in place as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone that came into force on 3 November.

21 November 2021

An enhanced Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was introduced in parts of North Yorkshire. This included mandatory housing for all captive birds within the area. Please note, this housing order is now mandatory across Great Britain.

14 November 2021

The first general licence was published. There are currently six general licences in place for a range of activities.  For more information on these and individual movement licensing please visit the licensing page on NFUonline. 

8 November 2021

The government announced that gatherings of poultry, galliforme or anserisforme birds were no longer permitted in England and Wales.

3 November 2021

A nationwide Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) came into force across England, Scotland and Wales. This includes stricter measures on biosecurity to prevent the spread of AI.

26 October 2021

The first case of highly pathogenic H5N1 was confirmed in Great Britain. To stay up to date with the latest cases as they happen, head over to our latest news page.

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Keeping your birds safe

Only 1g of infected faeces is required to cause one million birds to die, therefore keeping everything that is going in and out of the shed to a minimum and as clean as possible, is the only way to minimise the risk of AI.

Defra has put together some guidance on biosecurity and preventing disease in a Prevention Zone which has good biosecurity points worth following.

The chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, advises the following:

  • Cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • Reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry are kept to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products and using effective vermin control
  • Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
  • Keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry housing or enclosures
  • Minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds.
“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to introduce higher biosecurity standards on your farm or small holding. It is in your interests to do so in order to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

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Your health and wellbeing

Your health and wellbeing matters.

It is understandable, during these times, to feel an increase in stress or anxiety. There are a number of rural charities and support networks that can offer help to those in need.

If you are struggling or know someone who is, know that you are not alone and the below helplines are here to support:

RABI has created an online farming community where you can access free, safe and anonymous online mental wellbeing support from any device – Online wellbeing support and counselling for farming people.

Farmwell has also published useful personal resilience guidance.

The Prince's Countryside Fund has a list of Farm Support Groups, local organisations and charities working across the UK, supporting people working in agriculture and rural communities.

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Public information on reporting

Members of the public are encouraged to report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls, or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) helpline on 0300 303 8268.

If you’re concerned with the health of any of your own birds please contact your veterinary surgeon, or if you think they are showing signs of disease please contact your local APHA office.

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