New housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds from avian influenza across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has come into force today, Monday 29 November. This means it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread and to eradicate the disease.
For an overview of the current confirmed cases and advice, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bird-flu-latest-situation-avian-influenza-prevention-zone-declared-across-great-britain
Overview of Current Outbreak
Bird flu cases are prominent at the moment and worryingly, we are getting two or three cases a day – a mixture of suspect and positive cases. What we are seeing are more cases than where we were this time last year (2020) in terms of normal UK levels. However, the issue potentially is that it is an infectious, high-pathogenic strain-H5N1, meaning that it is easily spread and causes very high mortality in affected birds.
Normally, in a traditional UK bird flu scenario, you would have around half a dozen to a dozen cases across the winter and there would be a variety of strains; some high-pathogenic and some low-pathogenic. Whereas, at the moment, the birds are consistently showing high-path H5N1. This is appearing in pheasants more so than in partridge. There is now a national housing order in place for poultry.
Whilst these housing measures will not impact released birds, it is applicable to overwintered laying stock. Of course, the majority of hens will either be in open or netted wintering pens, with a few in their laying units. In these instances, if you have the capabilities to house the birds, you should. If this is not possible, you should net the birds using rearing nets.
Clinical signs of Avian Influenza can be seen as soon as 24 hours after initial infection (usually in cases of a ‘high pathogenic’ strain). Sudden death is the most dramatic effect of Avian Influenza. Dullness, a loss of appetite, depression, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, swelling of the face, nervous signs such as paralysis and sometimes green diarrhoea are all also clinical signs. However, birds infected with ‘low pathogenic’ Avian Influenza may not show any clinical signs at all.
It is important that all gamekeepers continue to be highly vigilant during this time, and take the appropriate steps, where necessary, to limit the risk of the spread of disease. When Avian Influenza is suspected you must contact the APHA immediately either directly or via your veterinary surgeon.
St David’s Game Bird Services advise that you ensure the following biosecurity measures are in place:
- Limit the number of staff going in and out of where the birds are kept
- Use separate clothing and boots if birds are kept in different locations
- Use of an appropriate disinfectant in a foot dip
- Keep a written record of anybody going on and off site
- Keep different species separate if you have “pet birds” on site.
Precautions should also be taken to limit wild bird contact:
- Avoid feeding ad-lib
- If feed is spread on the ground, ensure it is consumed in a short period of time
- Use of bird deterrents
- Net all ponds in close proximity if possible
Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch.