UPDATED BVA, BVA Branches and BVPA respond to confirmation of Avian Influenza

02 February 2017

UPDATED 2 February 2017

On the 2 February 2017, a wild swan found in County Londonderry near Lough Beg tested positive for H5N8 Avian Influenza.  

This follows several confirmed cases in wild birds and commercial and backyard flocks in the rest of the UK, including on 24 January, the confirmation of a new case of Avian Influenza H5N8 in a commercial flock of approximately 10,000 farmed breeding pheasants in Pilling, Preston, Lancashire. Some birds at the premises died and the remaining birds were humanely culled. A 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone was imposed around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Other cases of confirmed H5N8 include a wild duck, a wigeon, in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire and further confirmed cases of the H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza in commercial and backyard flocks and wild birds in England and Scotland.

In response, the British Veterinary Association (BVA), BVA Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Branches and the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) have issued the below statement. 

The precautions taken by the governments in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales remain in place, including the Prevention Zones (housing orders) and temporary ban on poultry gatherings. BVA advice to poultry keepers and vets remains as below. Any further findings of Avian Influenza will be published online by Defra and DAERA.

Poultry and captive bird keepers should continue to house their birds, where practicable, maintain their biosecurity and remain vigilant about the health of their birds.

Steps also have been taken to further protect poultry and captive birds by introducing a temporary suspension on gatherings of poultry. Poultry keepers, including those with fewer than 50 birds, are encouraged to provide details of their flocks to the Poultry Register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately in the event of an avian disease outbreak so that they can take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.

Members of the public are encouraged to report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls (species known to be infected in Europe), or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location, to the APHA helpline on 03459 335577 or the DAERA helpline on 0300 200 7840.

The advice from Public Health England (PHE) is that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has stated that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

The BVA, BVA Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Branches, and BVPA responded:

“The identification of Avian Influenza in wild birds and domestic flocks illustrates both the ongoing importance of a robust veterinary surveillance system and the risk of infection to domestic poultry from wild birds. BVA, BVA Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Branches, and BVPA urge all vets and poultry keepers to remain vigilant to signs of the disease and heed the biosecurity advice issued by the governments across the UK. Any suspicion of Avian Influenza should be reported to the APHA or DAERA as soon as possible.”

“We’d like to also emphasise that the risk to public health from this strain is very low and that the Food Standards Agency has made clear that there is no food safety risk to consumers, with thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products still safe to eat.

For further advice on Avian Influenza contact the APHA helpline on 03459 335577 or the DAERA helpline on 0300 200 7840.  

BVA Media Office