Avian Influenza

23rd Nov 2020

Avian influenza has been identified at several locations in the UK, the most recent being Melton Mowbray.

As a response to this there are now legal requirements for biosecurity procedures for all birdkeepers and restrictions are in place in zones where cases have been identified. Although these are strictest for larger flocks and facilities, anyone keeping poultry should be aware of the situation and consider increasing biosecurity measures as the condition is spread via bird to bird contact or contaminated body fluids such as faeces.

Steps that can be taken to ensure good biosecurity include:

  • minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
  • clean footwear before and after visiting birds
  • keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
  • prevent contact with wild birds by keeping food and water in fully protected areas, removing spilled food promptly and using suitable fencing in outdoor areas 
  • avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species, where possible
  • keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet 

Symptoms that we should watch out for, both in captive and wild birds, include:

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • fewer eggs laid
  • sudden death

Avian influenza is a notifiable disease so if you have any concerns that a bird is showing symptoms please contact a vet or DEFRA for advice on how to act. Please consult the DEFRA website for full info about current legislation and advice, particularly if you may be close to a restricted area.

Avian influenza is not related to Covid-19 and its risks to human health currently are low.

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