Bird flu warning to poultry farmers

Poultry farmers are being warned to be on their guard after bird flu was detected in swans in Hollan

Poultry farmers are being warned to be on their guard after bird flu was detected in swans in Holland Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Poultry farmers are being urged to be on the alert as experts warn the risk of a bird flu outbreak has increased.

The chief veterinary officers of the UK have raised the risk of the disease hitting the UK from “low” to “medium” after two swans were infected in the Netherlands.

Chief vets from the four nations warned that the cases of avian influenza, known colloquially as bird flu, were detected on Thursday but said the risk of transmission to people remains low.

Wild birds migrating westward from mainland Europe during the winter period can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds. Many make their first landfall in Norfolk after crossing the North Sea.

The UK was previously declared free of avian flu in September 2017 and has remained free of highly pathogenic avian influenza since then.

But a case of a “low pathogenic” strain prompted the cull of 27,000 chickens at a farm in Athelington, near Eye, in June 2019.

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A statement from the four chief veterinary officers said: “Following two confirmed cases of H5N8 avian influenza in the Netherlands we have raised the risk level for incursion to the UK from migratory birds to medium ahead of the winter migration season.

“The risk of the disease being introduced to poultry farms in the UK remains low.

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“We are monitoring the situation carefully and bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.”

They added poultry keepers should make sure their birds’ living area is clean, place feed and water in enclosed areas protected from wild animals and remove any spillages, clean their footwear before and after visits, and put fencing around any outdoor areas the birds can access.

The vets also advised avoiding mixing ducks and geese with other poultry species.

This strain of the virus can be very virulent in birds, but there are no recorded cases of it causing disease in humans.

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