Detailed guide: Avian influenza (bird flu)

Animal Plant Health Agency

December 10
21:07 2019

Avian influenza (bird flu) mainly affects birds. It can also affect humans and other mammals.

Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of bird flu in poultry you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7).

If you keep poultry, whether commercially on a farm, or as pets in your garden, or rearing game birds, you should keep a close watch on them for signs of disease, and maintain good biosecurity at all times. If you have any concerns about the health of your poultry, seek prompt advice from your vet.

Poultry includes chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigeon (bred for meat), partridge, quail, guinea fowl and pheasants.

You should register your poultry, even if only kept as pets, so we can contact you during an outbreak. This is a legal requirement if you have 50 or more birds.

Latest situation

Low pathogenic avian influenza of the H5 strain was confirmed at a commercial chicken farm in Mid Suffolk on 10 December 2019. All birds on the premises will be humanely culled.

A restricted zone of 1km is in place around the infected premises as specified in the declaration applying these restrictions. Our interactive map will help you find out if you live within the restricted zone.

Within this restricted zone a variety of different controls are in place to prevent the spread of disease. These include restrictions on the movement of poultry, carcases, eggs, used poultry litter and manure. Poultry keepers in the restricted zone can now apply for movement licences for some specific movements from the zone.

There are also restrictions on bird gatherings (fairs, shows, exhibitions) and the release of game birds.

We are taking immediate and robust action and an investigation is underway to determine the most likely source of this outbreak.

Public Health England has advised that the risk to public health from this strain is very low. Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

If you keep poultry (including game birds or as pets), you should follow our biosecurity best practice advice. This is especially relevant if your birds are in a Higher Risk Area (HRA).

Anyone who finds dead wild birds should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (select option 7).

You can sign up to our Alerts Service to keep up to date with the latest news. You dont need to sign up if you have registered your poultry.

Higher Risk Areas (HRAs)

All areas in Great Britain remain at risk of bird flu in wild birds.

However, in Great Britain weve defined a number of areas as Higher Risk Areas (HRAs). These are generally areas near where wild birds (and in particular gulls and wild waterfowl) gather, such as lakes, marshes or estuaries.

Check if your premises is within an HRA on our interactive map.

If all or part of your premises is in a Higher Risk Area you should follow biosecurity advice to protect your birds. We consider that youre in an HRA even if only part of your premises falls within the HRA.

We have defined HRAs following our experience over the last 2 winters, coupled with the latest scientific and veterinary opinion. This indicates that migratory wild waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) and gulls pose a continual threat for the introduction of bird flu into premises where poultry, game birds, pet and other captive birds are kept. EU regulations require that member states identify areas of the country where the risk of bird flu is deemed to be highest. We have published more detail of the rationale and approach behind Higher Risk Areas.

If you are planning a new poultry unit you should take into account the risk of HPAI where the unit is planned.

Biosecurity advice

If you keep poultry or other captive birds, you must take action to reduce the risk of disease in your flock by following government advice on biosecurity. This is especially relevant if your birds are located in a Higher Risk Area (HRA).

Good biosecurity improves the overall health and productivity of your flock by helping keep out poultry diseases such as avian influenza and limiting the spread of disease in an outbreak.

This applies just as much if you only have a few birds as pets, or if you have a large commercial flock. An outbreak of bird flu in back garden chickens results in the same restrictions on movement of birds. It has the same effect on farmers and trade in poultry as an outbreak on a commercial farm.

To ensure good biosecurity, all poultry keepers should:

  • minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
  • clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Defra approved disinfectant at entrances and exits
  • clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry
  • keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
  • humanely control rats and mice
  • place birds food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species, where possible
  • keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
  • keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet

Register your birds

We encourage all keepers to register their birds with us so we can contact you quickly if there is a disease outbreak in your area and you need to take action.

If you have more than 50 birds, you are legally required to register your flock within one month of their arrival at your premises. If you have less than 50 birds, including pet birds, you should still register.

Find out how to register your birds.

Report signs of disease

You must keep a close watch on your birds for any signs of disease, and must seek prompt advice from your vet if you have any concerns. If you suspect any type of avian influenza you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.

Small flock keepers and pet bird owners

Simple advice for people keeping just a few birds is available in this poster. If you keep poultry, print this and keep it handy, or put a copy on your noticeboard:

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