News story: Avian influenza (bird flu) in winter 2017 to 2018

Updated: We have declared a Prevention Zone in areas of South Dorset - imposing requirements on all bird keepers - after H5N6 bird flu has been found in wild birds in that area.

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease of birds. There is a constant risk the disease may arrive and all poultry keepers should review their biosecurity, sign up for disease alerts, and register their birds with APHA. Keepers must report any unexplained deaths or sickness to their vet.

Public Health England advise the risk to public health from H5N8 avian influenza is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said the disease poses no food safety risk for UK consumers.

Current situation

On 12 January 2018 Defra confirmed the finding of Avian Influenza H5N6 in 17 wild birds in South Dorset. This was the first time we’ve found this during the winter of 2017 to 2018.

We’ve introduced a new Avian Influenza Prevention Zone which applies to everyone who keeps poultry or captive birds in specific, targeted areas of South Dorset. All keepers in this Prevention Zone must follow our detailed legal requirements on strict biosecurity, whether they have commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock.

Use our interactive map to check if you are within the new Prevention Zone (pink coloured) in the Weymouth and Portland areas.

Outside this area, in the rest of England, keepers aren’t legally required to apply extra biosecurity, but we encourage them to continue to follow our best practice biosecurity advice.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, said:

This is the first time avian flu has been identified in the UK this winter and while the disease does not represent a threat to the public, it is highly infectious and deadly to birds.

As the virus has been circulating across Europe, this finding has not come as a surprise. But it is vital that anyone who keeps birds - whether a few in a back garden or thousands on a farm - is vigilant for any signs of disease, reports suspect disease to APHA and maintains good biosecurity to reduce the risk of their birds becoming infected.

What to do if you keep poultry and captive birds

If you keep poultry – whether that’s a few birds in your garden or a large commercial flock – you should take steps now to

review your biosecurity register your birds with APHA report any sick birds sign up for disease alerts Review your biosecurity

Bird flu is spread by direct contact between birds and through contamination in the environment, for example in bird droppings. This means wild birds carrying the disease can infect domestic poultry, so the best way to reduce the risk of your poultry catching bird flu is to minimise chances for them to come into contact with wild birds or their droppings by practising good biosecurity.

You should review your biosecurity measures now, as the risk level may increase in the coming weeks. This means reading government guidance on good biosecurity and taking action to:

minimise movement in and out of your bird enclosure clean footwear before and after visiting your birds keep bird enclosures clean and tidy and regularly disinfecting any hard surfaces humanely control rats and mice place birds’ food and water in fully-enclosed areas that wild birds cannot access, and remove any spilled feed keep your birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around the outdoor areas they access make sure equipment, feed and bedding are stored undercover so they cannot be contaminated by wild birds where possible keep chickens and turkeys separate from ducks and geese

Read and download our advice poster for keepers of poultry (PDF, 1 page).

Register your birds

We encourage all keepers to register their birds with Defra so that we can contact you quickly if there is a disease outbreak in your area and you need to take action. If you have more than 50 birds, you are legally required to register your flock within one month of their arrival at your premises. Find out how to register your birds.

Report signs of disease

If you suspect disease in your own flock, or you find dead wild birds such as wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey, you must let Defra know. Call the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

Sign up for disease alerts

By signing up to the free disease alert system you will get text alerts and emails informing you of the latest news about bird flu and Newcastle disease outbreaks in Great Britain.

Further information Detailed guidance on avian influenza (bird flu): latest situation; how to spot it and report it Detailed guidance on biosecurity for poultry keepers Latest veterinary outbreak assessment on H5N8 in the UK and Europe Recent announcements on avian influenza 12 January 2018: Avian flu found in wild birds in Dorset 13 September 2017: Avian Influenza: UK now disease-free but Chief Vet urges vigilance 1 September 2017: Poultry keepers urged to take action now to prepare for winter Avian Flu threat

seen at 20:30, 12 January in Announcements on GOV.UK.
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