Bird flu-free zones declared across UK amid ‘largest outbreak in history’

‘Bird flu-free zones’ have been declared across the UK as the UK grapples with its largest bird flu outbreak to date.

From noon on 17th October, all bird keepers in England, Scotland and Wales will be legally required to follow strict biosecurity measures to protect their flocks from the threat of bird flu. (Defra) announced.

The move follows an increase in cases of bird flu detected in wild birds and commercial establishments in recent weeks.

The UK is facing its “biggest ever outbreak” of bird flu, according to the government, with 190 confirmed cases nationwide since late October 2021, of which more than 30 have been confirmed since the beginning of the month. increase.

East England has been particularly hard hit by the poultry and captive bird outbreak, according to Defra. There have also been outbreaks in the southwest and wild birds in several parts of the UK.

Growing risk

Bird flu circulates naturally among wild birds and can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds when they migrate from mainland Europe to the UK in the winter, according to the government.

In a joint statement, the Chief Veterinary Officers of England, Scotland and Wales said: Kingdom.

“Meticulous biosecurity and sanitation measures are the best defense, which is why we have declared Avian Influenza Prevention Zones (AIPZ) across the UK. Action must be taken to prevent spread to other animals.Domestic birds.

“The introduction of AIPZ is legally mandated to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements to protect birds, whether they are a few or thousands, from this highly contagious disease. means.”

‘very low’ risk to public health

Under the prevention zone rule, producers with more than 500 birds must limit non-essential access to their sites, and staff will change clothing and shoes before entering the enclosure. and vehicles require regular cleaning and disinfection.

Backyard owners with small numbers of chickens, ducks and geese have also been warned that they must take steps to limit the risk of spreading disease to their flocks.

The preventive zones in force across the UK do not include a nationwide requirement to keep birds indoors, but officials said it was constantly being reviewed.

They also said the risk to public health from the virus is very low and that properly cooked poultry and eggs are safe to eat.

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Chan