All poultry in England are to be allowed outside from Thursday 13 April 2017 following updated evidence on the risk posed by wild birds, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has announced. The requirement to keep poultry in Higher Risk Areas of England housed or completely enclosed in netting, introduced to minimise the risk of them catching avian flu from wild birds, will be lifted. However, all keepers in England will continue to be required to comply with strict biosecurity measures. A ban on poultry gatherings also remains in force until further notice.
The decision to lift the additional requirements in the Higher Risk Areas is based on the latest scientific evidence and veterinary advice, which concludes that the level of risk to poultry in these areas has now reduced to the same level as that across the rest of England. This is because of changes in the wild bird population: the majority of over-wintering migratory birds have now left the UK, and resident wild waterfowl are at their lowest levels and entering the breeding season when they become less likely to move long distances to forage for food.
The risk of poultry becoming infected from H5N8 remains heightened and countries across Europe continue to experience outbreaks and observe cases in wild birds. Defra is stepping up surveillance of wild birds across the UK to inform our risk assessments.
All poultry keepers must continue to take steps to reduce the risk to their birds, including minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures, cleaning footwear, keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy and feeding birds indoors.
The APHA (Animal & Plant Health Agency) continue to ask that the public use the Defra helpline (Tel: 03459 33 55 77) to report findings of dead wild birds. In particular, any wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey and where more than five birds of any species are found dead in the same location.
The APHA would like to remind all poultry keepers that the clinical signs of this virus are variable and will depend on the species, but any suspicion of production drop, increased mortality, sick and depressed birds with a temperature and neurological signs should be initially discussed with their private veterinarian.
For the latest situation on avian influenza and actions to reduce the risks, please visit the GOV.UK website for the latest situation.
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Please be aware if any person fails to comply with a requirement of this Order or of a declaration, licence, notice or designation under it, an inspector may take the steps he considers necessary to ensure the requirement is met at the expense of that person. An inspector can direct any person to take or refrain from specified action in respect of any place, animal, bird, vehicle, or other thing; and seize and detain any thing (Article 83 of AOMO).
Failure to comply with the Declaration could be an offence under section 72 or 73 of the Animal Health Act 1981 (AHA). A person guilty of an offence is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to an unlimited fine or to both (section 75 of AHA).
DEFRA guidance for keepers on how to comply with the Prevention Zone measures and reduce the risk to your birds of Avian Influenza.