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Animal health

Bird Flu

Due to an increase in Bird Flu cases, DEFRA declared a nationwide prevention zone on Monday 17th Oct 2022.  An Avian Prevention Zone has been declared across the whole of the UK demanding enhanced biosecurity for all bird keepers, domestic or commercial.  Currently, a control zone is in force for all poultry across the South West of England, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, which may be extended to other parts of the UK in the coming weeks.

The first wave of winter migrant birds are poised to enter the UK this month and it remains to be seen if they will spark off further cases of the similar strain to that we have seen over the past twelve months or whether a new strain will enter.

In view of these developments, Bird keepers are instructed by Sunderland Regulatory Services to implement responsible and sensible biosecurity procedures as follows -

  • Keep free ranging birds within fenced areas, and that ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off (except in specific circumstances e.g. zoo birds).
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy;
  • Minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures;
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas
  • Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry.
  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources;
  • Feed and water the birds owned by the keeper in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;

We also urge that keepers of birds in Sunderland to contact Trading Standards on t:0191 520 5550, or email: public.health@sunderland.gov.uk to report the amount and type of birds they own and where the birds are kept.

In addition, dead wild bird carcasses found in Sunderland have been tested and found to be the result of Bird Flu.

Wild birds are susceptible to a range of diseases and injuries and not all dead birds will have been infected with avian influenza. However, our general advice to the general public is to not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that they find.  Members of the public and land managers are advised to check the current guidance on reporting of dead wild birds and latest updates (see below). If the finding meets the threshold for reporting, they should contact the Defra Helpline (03459 33 55 77) to report the dead wild birds, unless it is clear that the cause of death is trauma.

Find out more here

Housing measures

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds are to be introduced to all areas of England from 00:01 on Monday 7 November, following a decision by the United Kingdom's Chief Veterinary Officer. The housing measures legally require all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow stringent biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the disease, regardless of type or size. The order will extend the mandatory housing measures already in force in the hot spot area of Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Essex to the whole of England following an increase in the national risk of bird flu in wild birds to very high. Over the last year, the UK has faced its largest ever outbreak of avian influenza with over 200 cases confirmed since late October 2021. The introduction of the housing measures comes after the disease was detected at over 70 premises since the beginning of October, as well as multiple reports in wild birds.

The Chief Veterinary Officer is now encouraging all bird keepers across England to use the week to prepare, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their private vet and expand housing where necessary. Scrupulous biosecurity and separating flocks in all ways, from wild birds remain the best form of defence. Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday 7 November onwards you must keep your indoors. Evidence shows that housing birds reduces the risk of kept birds being infected with bird flu. However, housing alone will not protect birds and all keepers must still follow the other enhanced biosecurity measures mandated by the AIPZ at all times to protect their flocks and prevent the risk of future outbreaks which is circulating in wild birds.

Housing combined with stringent biosecurity measures can provide even greater reduction in risk. The new housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity measures that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) earlier this month. The AIPZ means that all bird keepers need to take extra precautions, such as restricting access for non-essential people on site, ensuring workers change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading. The UK Health Security Agency continue to advise that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency advice remains unchanged, that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Further Information: Biosecurity guidance and a biosecurity self-assessment checklist have been published by Defra to assist all bird keepers in instigating and maintaining good biosecurity, which together with further updates on the latest avian influenza situation, can be found via Avian influenza (bird flu) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The addition of housing measures to the AIPZ already in force across England means all bird keepers across England must:

  • Housing or netting all poultry and captive birds 
  • Cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds - if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • Reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control
  • Keep records of mortality, movement of poultry and poultry products and any changes in production 
  • Thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
  • Keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
  • Minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds
  • Prevent access by poultry to ponds and watercourses and ensure that birds are kept in fenced or enclosed areas

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