Bird flu rules finally lifted for poultry keepers - but disease risk remains

Chickens at a Norfolk farm

Heightened biosecurity measures to prevent bird flu have been lifted after the disease risk was reduced to 'low' - Credit: Denise Bradley

East Anglia's poultry keepers have been warned to stay on their guard against bird flu, despite strict biosecurity rules being lifted as the outbreak risk falls.

The disease ravaged the region's poultry industry at the end of last year, prompting the cull of 55,000 turkeys at two farms near King's Lynn and Snetterton in the run-up to Christmas, followed by more than 100,000 Gressingham ducks at a network of four farms near Watton, and one at Great Ellingham.

Containment measures enforced across the country included an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) requiring all bird keepers to follow extra biosecurity measures – whether they run commercial poultry businesses or small backyard flocks.

Defra said the risk of bird flu in poultry with good biosecurity has now been reduced to "low", so the AIPZ enforced in November was lifted from midday on Saturday, May 15.

But keepers were warned that this does not mean the risk has gone completely.

In a joint statement, Britain’s three chief veterinary officers said: "This will be welcome news for bird keepers across the country who have put great effort into keeping their flocks safe this winter.

"We have taken swift action to contain and eliminate this disease, and we urge all bird keepers – whether they have just a few birds or thousands – to continue to do their bit to maintain strict biosecurity measures on their premises, so that we do not lose the progress that we have made over the past few months. Low risk does not mean no risk."

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All poultry and bird gatherings, including poultry markets and shows, will also now be permitted, provided organisers notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) at least seven days in advance, and comply with the new general licence.

Also, all of the region's free-range and back-yard poultry flocks were allowed back outdoors last month after a mandatory housing order "lockdown" was lifted on April 1.

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity.

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Suggested measures include:

  • Fencing off ponds, streams, boggy areas or standing water
  • Netting or covering ponds
  • Removing any wild bird feed sources
  • Deterring wild birds
  • Cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas
  • Putting down wood shavings in wet areas
  • Limiting the number of people who come onto the site
  • Using disinfectant foot dips when entering and exiting enclosures or houses

Poultry keepers should report suspicion of disease to the APHA on 03000 200 301.

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