Defra confirms new ‘targeted’ bird flu measures will go ahead after February 28
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015
Defra confirms 'targeted' approach to bird flu will go ahead
The government's chief vet has confirmed new 'targeted measures' will be introduced after February 28 to halt the spread of bird flu.
Defra declared a national 'prevention zone' in December, requiring all poultry to be housed indoors following outbreaks of the highly-pathogenic H5N8 strain of avian influenza – including one at a 23,000-bird unit in Redgrave, near Diss.
Following plans set out earlier this month, when the housing order expires on February 28, keepers can allow their birds to return outdoors into fenced areas, provided they meet mandatory biosecurity conditions – apart from those in Higher Risk Areas, who must still keep their birds indoors, or in fenced runs fully covered by netting.
The move has drawn criticism from poultry farmers in East Anglia, who said the 'two-tier' system would unfairly penalise some poultry and egg producers inside the higher-risk zones by removing their free range status.
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All poultry keepers – including domestic back-yard flocks – must continue to practise strict disease prevention measures.
Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said: 'Based on clear scientific evidence, the risk from wild birds is too high in some areas of England to rely on biosecurity measures alone. That's why we are requiring birds in Higher Risk Areas to be housed or protected from wild bird contact by netting.
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'We believe this is the best approach to control disease, protect birds' welfare and ensure consumers can buy free range products. As with any disease control measures these will be kept under review based on the latest situation and up-to-date scientific advice.'
Defra says the risk of disease across the country remains high and measures are likely to be in place until at least the end of April.
Public Health England advises that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for consumers.
The announcement came on the same days as the tenth UK case of H5N8 was confirmed in a small flock of chickens at a farm near Haltwhistle, Northumberland.