Bird flu prevention zone extended to cover whole of England

A bird flu prevention zone has been declared across the whole of England, chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens has confirmed today.

This means it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures. It comes as 13 dead wild birds were confirmed to have the virus in Warwickshire, England.

Last week, 17 wild birds tested positive in Dorset and a total of 31 infected birds have now been identified at that site.

Prevention zone

Defra enforced a local prevention zone in the area on Friday. However, as the latest results show the disease is not isolated to a single site, the decision has been taken to extend the prevention zone across the country on a precautionary basis.

Testing of the birds found in Warwickshire is ongoing; however, it is highly expected that this will be the same H5N6 strain of the virus which has been circulating in wild birds across Europe in recent months.

Public Health England has advised that the risk to public health remains very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

Gibbens said: “Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements and this is in your interests to do – to protect your birds from this highly infectious virus.”

The prevention zone means bird keepers across the country must:

  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources;
  • Feed and water your birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;
  • Minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures;
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy;
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.

Large flocks

Keepers with more than 500 birds will also be required to take some extra biosecurity measures, including restricting access to non-essential people, changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles.

The prevention zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review as part of the department’s work to monitor the threat of bird flu.

Poultry keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on: 03459-335-577. Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease to the Animal and Plant Health Association (APHA) on: 03000-200-301.

There are no plans to carry out any culls or put movement restrictions in place.

There are currently no findings of bird flu in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and the prevention zone is for England only.