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Avian Influenza

Published: 20 Dec 2016 15:13

Gatherings of poultry suspended following case of H5N8 in England.

A temporary suspension of gatherings of some species of birds will apply across Scotland and the rest of Great Britain from today.

The ban on gatherings (livestock fairs, auctions, shows or other events) applies to those attending with bird species which are considered at higher risk of spreading avian influenza: this includes all poultry and game bird species, ducks, geese and swans.  Gatherings of pigeons, aviary birds and birds of prey can continue to take place.

This decision follows the confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 at a farm in Lincolnshire.  It is part of a series of comprehensive measures to reduce the likeliness of disease spread, in response to clear evidence that the virus is circulating in wild bird populations around Europe.

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone declared across Scotland remains in force until 6 January 2017. Bird keepers are reminded that they should continue to keep their birds housed, if possible, or otherwise take steps to ensure they are kept separate from wild birds and ensure excellent biosecurity procedures are in place.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said:

“We continue to work with the other UK administrations  and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to prevent the further spread of disease. 

“The arrival of H5N8 in the UK highlights how essential it is that bird keepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and comply with the requirements of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone currently in place. I would urge bird keepers to review their biosecurity measures to ensure that they are doing everything they possibly can to protect their flocks.”

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said:

“In response to the confirmed case it is important that we take appropriate steps to reduce the possible spread of disease. Suspending bird gatherings of high risk species is a proportionate way to reduce the likelihood of consequential spread, and further limit the chances of a multifocal outbreak occurring in Scotland.

“I would remind keepers that guidance on biosecurity and preventing disease within the Prevention Zone is available on the gov.scot website.

“I strongly advise keepers to discuss their specific arrangements with their private vets, or local Animal Plant and Health Agency office, as they are best placed to provide practical advice for your situation.  Keepers who are concerned about the health or welfare of their flock should seek veterinary advice immediately.

“Expert advice remains that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry and the threat to public health from the virus is very low.”

Background

Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must report it to their local Animal Plant & Health Agency office. Contact details can be found at www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/about-us/contact-us/field-services/

A case  of HPAI H5N8 was confirmed on a farm in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire on 16 December. Further information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/avian-influenza-bird-flu-identified-at-lincolnshire-farm  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu.

More information about Avian Influenza - including biosecurity guidance and Frequently Asked Questions - is available from the Scottish Government website www.gov.scot/avianinfluenza and http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0051/00512092.pdf

Restrictions remain in place requiring all poultry and captive birds across GB  to be housed to prevent the spread of avian flu. The ban on gatherings of chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese applies in England, Scotland and Wales.

The last UK Avian Influenza outbreak was Low Pathogenic H5N1 in Dunfermline, January 2016.

As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where any ‘at risk’ bird species (wildfowl or gulls), or five or more birds of any other species, are found dead in the same location and at the same time.

In the United Kingdom, members of the public are asked to report these incidents to Defra’s national helpline (email defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk or telephone 03459 335577, Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm).