Avian Flu

BIRD FLU what do I need to know?

With now over 20 cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), strain H5N1 in England, a country wide prevention zone has come into force which means that new housing measures have been introduced to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease. This applies to all poultry keepers regardless of the size of your flock.

Poultry keepers must now do the following:

  • Register your flock here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/poultry-registration even if you have a small number of birds, you will be alerted if you need to take any further action due to cases in your area 
  • House or net all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild birds
  • Cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment, and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • Reduce the movement of people, vehicles, or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control
  • Thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
  • Keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
  • Minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds
  • Monitor your birds’ health closely and contact us, your vets, if there are any concerns. It is a legal requirement to report any signs suspicious of bird flu (Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03459 33 55 77). If we need to examine your bird, we will do so outside of the practice in PPE

I don’t keep any birds – how does it affect me? 

  • Previous strains have spread to humans. The strain in the UK now has never spread to humans and the risk of spread is thought to be very low. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat. 
  • If you find any dead or sick birds including swans, geese or ducks or other wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey do not touch or pick them up but report it immediately (Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03459 33 55 77). Failure to do so is an offence.

How avian influenza is spread:

  • Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the colder winter months can carry the disease and this can lead to cases in poultry and other captive birds
  • Avian influenza spreads from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces. It can also be spread by contaminated feed and water or by dirty vehicles, clothing and footwear
  • The avian influenza virus changes frequently, creating new strains, and there is a constant risk that one of the new strains may spread easily among people
  • Avian influenza isn’t an airborne virus

Common bird flu symptoms in chickens include:

  • Oedema in the comb and wattles
  • Purple discoloration / cyanosis of the wattles, combs, and legs
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nasal discharge
  • Soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Decreased egg production
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, wattles, hocks, and comb
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Pinpoint haemorrhages on feet and shanks
  • Ruffled feathers

These new housing measures will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.

Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu

If you have any questions or are concerned for your flock, please call us for advice.