Poultry gatherings banned to limit avian flu risk

Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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The Government has announced a temporary suspension on gatherings of some species of birds across England, Scotland and Wales - starting from today - following a case of highly pathogenic avian flu of the H5N8 strain at a farm in Lincolnshire.

The ban on gatherings applies to birds at higher risk of avian flu including chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, and restricts events such as livestock fairs, auctions and bird shows.

Since the disease was declared on December 16 it has been confirmed that all 2,500 birds at the farm in Louth have been destroyed, the farm has been disinfected and there have been no subsequent cases reported.

Most birds at the premises died soon after contracting the disease.

A 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone remain in place around the infected farm to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The ban on gatherings is part of the Government’s measures to tackle the disease and reduce the risk of the virus spreading, which includes a requirement to keep all poultry and captive birds housed or otherwise separated from contact with wild birds and advice urging farmers and poultry keepers to ensure strict biosecurity standards.

The ban on gatherings does not apply to pigeons or aviary birds which are at much lower risk of passing the disease to domestic poultry. It will be kept under review and may be lifted or amended if the risk level changes.

Advice from Public Health England remains that the risk to public health from the virus is very low. The Food Standards Agency has also made clear bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. There is not anticipated to be any impact on the supplies of turkeys or other birds over Christmas.

The Government’s chief veterinary officer, Nigel Gibbens, said: “While we have seen no further cases of bird flu following the outbreak in Lincolnshire, we must continue to be vigilant and do all we can to protect against this highly pathogenic strain of the disease.

“This ban on gatherings is a proportionate step that will help protect our farmers and bird keepers from seeing their flocks infected with this disease that can have a devastating impact on poultry.

“The risk to human health continues to be very low and there is no impact on the food chain, but infection at a gathering could lead to rapid dispersal of infection to kept birds in many locations.

“Our Avian Influenza Prevention Zone remains in place across the country and anyone who has regular contact with birds should stay alert for signs of disease, maintain the highest biosecurity standards and take all reasonable steps to minimise contact between poultry and wild birds.”