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Poultry keepers urged to take action against winter bird flu threat

Defra has urged poultry keepers to guard against the winter bird flu threat. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Defra has urged poultry keepers to guard against the winter bird flu threat. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Poultry farmers and pet bird keepers across East Anglia have been urged to take action now to prepare for the winter bird flu threat.

Avian influenza brought a series of outbreaks to the region in February 2017 – including three East Anglian cases in the Diss area which prompted the culling of thousands of birds.

Since June 2017, there have been no detections in poultry or kept birds in the UK, but animal health officials have warned the risk remains as the virus is still circulating in wild birds in northern Europe, including Denmark and Germany.

All keepers – whether running a large commercial farm, keeping a few birds in their back garden or rearing game birds – have been advised to take simple measures to protect against the disease threat in the coming winter months.

These include:

• 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 bird feed 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.

• Where possible, avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species

A joint statement by all four of the UK’s chief veterinary officers said: “Avian flu continues to circulate in many parts of the world and with the colder months upon us the risk of disease from migrating birds is increasing. It is critical that all keepers of poultry, including game birds and pet birds, act now to reduce the risk of transmission of avian flu to their flocks.

“Good biosecurity should be maintained at all times, including regularly cleaning and disinfecting the area where you keep birds and separating them from wild birds wherever possible.”

Poultry keepers have also been urged to sign up to receive free text or email alerts of bird flu outbreaks from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), and also to register their birds on the Great Britain Poultry Register. This is a legal requirement for those with 50 or more birds, although keepers with fewer than 50 birds are also strongly encouraged to register.

Last winter, the H5N6 HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) strain of bird flu was only detected in wild birds and there were no outbreaks in domestic birds, either in commercial or small holdings.

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