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Poultry keepers must act now to safeguard against winter bird flu risk

PUBLISHED: 10:56 04 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:56 04 September 2017

Norfolk chickens. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk chickens. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Poultry keepers across East Anglia are being urged to take action now to safeguard their flocks against the winter threat of bird flu.

The H5N8 strain of avian influenza sparked a series of bird culls and preventative actions within the poultry industry last winter, including 23,000 birds killed at a farm in Redgrave, near Diss, and a further 55,000 birds culled after the virus was identified at a nearby duck unit.

The country’s most recent case in poultry was confirmed in Norfolk on June 3, when an outbreak hit a small back-yard flock in Diss, while the discovery of an infected mute swan at a wetland reserve in the Norfolk Broads on July 26 proved there was still a risk from wild birds.

While there has been a decline in the number of new cases during the summer, the disease is still circulating across Europe and all keepers – both commercial and domestic – have been urged to take simple preventative measures before autumn migrations of wild ducks and geese begin.

Keepers should:

• Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly disinfect any hard surfaces. Clean footwear before and after visits.

• Place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly.

• Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl.

• Stay alert by signing up for free text or email alerts from the Animal and Plant Health Agency on any outbreaks of bird flu in the UK.

UK chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said: “While it is undoubtedly good news we haven’t confirmed a case in kept birds in the UK for two months, the disease remains a threat – particularly as we move again towards the colder months.

“For that reason we cannot afford to rest on our laurels and I want to remind keepers of flocks large and small to do everything they can to reduce the risk to their birds.

“Simple actions you can take now, such as regularly cleaning and disinfecting the area where you keep your birds and signing up for free disease alerts, could really help to reduce the risk of your birds becoming infected this winter.”

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is part of a cross-industry effort to highlight the impact of bird flu on the poultry industry, but has also asked domestic keepers to protect farmers by taking steps to protect their birds, as a case in a backyard flock leads to the same trade restrictions in an area as an outbreak on a commercial farm.

Members of the public are encouraged to report dead wild waterfowl such as swans, geese and ducks, or other dead wild birds such as gulls or birds of prey, to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

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