Avian Influenza update

Posted on June 08, 2017 by John Fishwick

This page will be periodically updated to reflect the current Avian Influenza (AI) situation. This page was last updated 29 May 2018.

The strain of AI which currently threatens the UK is the Highly Pathogenic H5N8. It is important to appreciate that, although this strain is unfortunately highly pathogenic to all species of birds, it has not been associated with any disease in humans. 

This strain of AI is being carried by wild birds, particularly waterfowl, as they migrate across Europe. Towards the end of last year there were a significant number of AI outbreaks in Europe believed to be associated with migratory birds. 

What are the signs of Avian Influenza?

These can vary widely. Being a highly pathogenic strain often the first indication is death, and birds being extremely unwell with reduced water and feed intake and possibly swollen heads. If any suspicion of these signs are seen it is important that this is notified to APHA either by the client or the vet. APHA can then investigate and back up with laboratory testing as needed. Any suspicion should be reported to APHA on 03000 200 301. Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease.

Avian Influenza 29 May 2018 update

Wales has joined England in lifting its Avian Influenza Prevention Zone with immediate effect following numerous cases of avian influenza in wild birds during winter. There have been no cases of avian influenza in poultry in the UK this year and the poultry sector retains its OIE disease free status. An updated veterinary risk assessment conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency has found the risk of incursion from wild birds reduced from High to Low. Similarly, the risk to poultry is also Low.

2 March 2018

The Welsh Government has been informed of a finding of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N6 virus in a wild bird in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan.

This is the same strain of the virus found in wild birds in England over recent weeks and the first finding in Wales this year.

6 February 2018

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “We are continuing to see cases of bird flu in wild birds across the country which is why, if you keep birds, it is absolutely essential that you do all you can to protect them and help prevent the spread of the disease... Enhanced biosecurity is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers in England and Wales and you should report any suspicions of disease in your birds to Defra on 03459 33 55 77.”

24 January 2018

Welsh Ministers have declared an all Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone which will apply from 00:01 on 25 January 2018. The control measures mirror those in the current England Prevention Zone.

19 January 2018 

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has declared a Avian Influenza Prevention Zone across the whole of England, requiring all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

The prevention zone means bird keepers across the country must:

  • Make areas where birds are kept unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds and by removing wild bird food sources;
  • Feed and water birds in enclosed areas;
  • 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.

15 January 2018

Avian influenza of the H5N6 strain has been confirmed in 17 wild birds in Dorest. There have been a number of cases of H5N6 virus in wild birds in Europe in recent months.

There are no plans for culling or movement restrictions, however local measures will be put in place to manage the potential threat. These include a local Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) in Dorset as a precautionary measure to prevent disease spread to other birds.

We’ve issued a response with the British Veterinary Poultry Association urging all vets to remain vigilant to signs of the disease and heed the biosecurity advice issued by Defra.

22 September 2017

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has announced that the UK has met international requirements to declare itself free from Avian Influenza (AI) H5N8 following last winter’s outbreaks. However, he reiterated calls for all poultry keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease - as winter approaches the risk of migratory wild birds infecting domestic poultry will rise.

31 August 2017

All poultry keepers across the UK are being urged to remain vigilant to the threat of bird flu and take action now to reduce the risk to their flocks and the wider poultry industry this winter in a joint call from the Chief Vets of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK.

7 August 2017

A wild swan has tested positive for bird flu in the Norfolk Broads – prompting renewed warnings for poultry keepers to be on their guard against the disease. 

3 June 2017

A further case of AI was confirmed on 3 June 2017. This was in a small backyard flock of geese and chickens on the Norfolk Suffolk border. Local restrictions have been put in place.

BVA is urging veterinary surgeons and bird owners to remain vigilant for signs of disease and to take precautions to prevent the spread of disease. AI remains a notifiable disease and any suspicion must be reported to APHA without delay.

Full details of the remaining Protection Zone in place and the latest guidance on AI can been seen at DEFRA

Defra have also issued a advice sheet for poultry owners to keep their birds safe from Avian Influenza. 

16 May 2017

APHA have announced that the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone has been lifted across most of England. However, the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone does remain in place in districts of Lancaster, Cumbria, and Merseyside.

Scotland

The Prevention Zone in Scotland was lifted on 30 April 2017. There is no longer any need to keep birds housed or to have special measures in place if birds are kept outside. 

The ban on gatherings and shows of poultry in Scotland and other birds will also end on 15 May.

Wales

The Prevention Zone in Wales was lifted on 30 April 2017. There is no longer any need to keep birds housed or to have special measures in place if birds are kept outside. 

Northern Ireland

The Prevention Zone in Northern Ireland remains in place and is currently extended until 31 May 2017. Poultry and birds may be kept outside but the need for additional biosecurity requirements remain in place. 

Gatherings and shows of birds will also remain in place until further notice.

England

APHA have announced that the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone has been lifted across most of England. However, the Avian Influenza Prevention Zonedoes remain in place in the following districts of Lancaster, Cumbria, and Merseyside.

7 May 2017

There is very good news to report: AI restrictions are being relaxed across most of the UK. The details are slightly different in each part of the UK and our understanding of the situation is as follows:

Scotland

The Prevention Zone in Scotland was lifted on 30 April 2017. There is no longer any need to keep birds housed or to have special measures in place if birds are kept outside.  

The ban on gatherings and shows of poultry in Scotland and other birds will also end on 15 May.

Wales

The Prevention Zone in Wales was lifted on 30 April 2017. There is no longer any need to keep birds housed or to have special measures in place if birds are kept outside.  

The ban on gatherings and shows of poultry in Wales will remain in place until further notice.  

Northern Ireland

The Prevention Zone in Northern Ireland remains in place and is currently extended until 31 May 2017. Poultry and birds may be kept outside but the need for additional biosecurity requirements remain in place. 

The ban on gatherings and shows of birds will also remain in place until further notice.    

England

The Prevention Zone will come to an end on 15 May. There will no longer be any need to keep birds housed or to have special measures in place if birds are kept outside from that date. 

The ban on gatherings of birds and shows will also come to an end on 15 May.

13 April 2017

Defra has announced that with effect from 13 April 2017 there will be some significant relaxation to the current measures to control Bird Flu in England.

There is still a significant risk to UK poultry from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8. Continued vigilance for signs of this disease is vital and it continues to be a Notifiable Disease.

There is no longer a requirement for some areas to be treated as High Risk Areas and so the measures across the whole of the UK are now broadly similar.

This means that it is no longer a requirement to house all poultry and captive birds in England. However, there is still a legal requirement for Enhanced Biosecurity measures to be applied.

Ongoing Caution

The easing of restrictions across much of the UK has been done following thorough risk assessments of the current situation by the relevant authorities. However, there is never any room for complacency with infectious diseases. Avian Influenza remains a notifiable disease and everyone is reminded to report any suspicious signs. It is always good practice to maintain high levels of hygiene and biosecurity with your birds.

Where wild birds, especially small groups of wild birds, are found dead they should be reported to APHA or the relevant veterinary authority for investigation.

Related BVA policy

Animal disease surveillance
Veterinary medicines
Wild species
BVA policy briefs on Avian Influenza (AI)

John Fishwick

Written by John Fishwick

BVA President from September 2017 to September 2018

John is senior lecturer in Dairy Herd Medicine and former head of the Department of Production and Population Health at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). He is a former President of the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA). Prior to this he worked in mixed practice and he was once head veterinarian to the world’s largest fully integrated dairy company, farming over 25,000 high producing dairy cows in Saudi Arabia.