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Avian Flu: Advice for Poultry Producers

Avian Flu: Guidance for Producers

Updates from Chief Vets for England, Scotland & Wales

The Government Chief Vets have declared a Prevention Zone introducing enhanced biosecurity requirements for poultry and captive birds, helping protect them from a strain of avian flu circulating in mainland Europe. The zone covers England, Scotland and Wales and will remain in place for 30 days. The Prevention Zone does not include Northern Ireland.

Keepers of poultry and other captive birds are now required to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. This includes all organic flocks.

Where poultry are kept indoors due to restrictions imposed by the Chief Vet on the basis of European Community legislation, they will not lose their organic status but they must have permanent access to sufficient quantities of roughage to enable foraging and other suitable material that will allow them to express normal behaviour. This will help to prevent the onset of welfare problems. The Featherwel website has a number of ideas for foraging enrichment in the poultry house.

What if birds cannot be kept indoors?

Where poultry cannot be practicably kept indoors while the prevention zone is in place, all possible measures must be put in place to prevent wild birds from interacting with farm poultry including, removing feeders and drinkers from the range or netting small range areas, if possible, to prevent access by wild birds.

While no cases of H5N8 avian flu have been found in the UK, and Public Health England advises the public health threat is low, UK authorities are closely monitoring the situation across Europe and have scaled up surveillance in response to the heightened risk.

What else can minimise an infection risk?

Defra have advised that even when birds are housed a risk of infection remains so this must be coupled with good biosecurity—for example disinfecting clothing and equipment, reducing poultry movement and minimising contact between poultry and wild birds.

Poultry keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.

Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although these vary between species of bird.

They can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, including:

  • cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry – if practical, use disposable protective clothing;
  • reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry are kept to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products and using effective vermin control;
  • thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle;
  • keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry housing or enclosures; and
  • minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds.

If you're a licensee, you should contact your Certification Officer if you require further clarification.