Chief veterinary officers (CVOs) across the UK are encouraging all poultry keepers to take action now to reduce the risk of the disease in their birds over the winter.
Poultry keepers of all sizes are being advised to keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, controlling rats and mice, as well as regularly disinfecting any hard surfaces.
They are also advised to keep food and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, remove any spilled feed regularly, put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl.
All bird keepers across the UK should also register their birds on the Great Britain Poultry Register (GBPR). For owners of 50 or more birds, this is a legal requirement. Keepers with fewer than 50 birds are also strongly encouraged to register, however.
“Avian flu is a constant threat to all poultry and, with winter approaching, there will be an increasing risk of disease incursion from migrating birds,” said a joint statement by the CVOs.
“Good robust biosecurity should be maintained at all times, including regularly cleaning and disinfecting the area where you keep birds and separating them from wild birds wherever possible.
“All poultry keepers across the UK are urged to remain vigilant and alert APHA [the Animal & Plant Health Agency] in Great Britain or DAERA [Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs] in Northern Ireland as soon as they suspect any signs of the disease.”
The UK has retained its OIE country freedom status since September 2017, as there have been no detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or kept birds in the UK since June 2017.
The H5N6 strain of avian influenza was confirmed in 21 wild birds between January and June 2018. No cases were found in domestic poultry, either in commercial or small holdings, or in captive birds in 2018.
While there have been no findings in wild birds in the UK since June 2018, the virus is still circulating around the world both in wild birds and domestic poultry.