Highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu has been detected in wild birds in Dorset.
It is the first confirmed finding of the virus in the UK this winter, and tests have shown it is closely related to the H5N6 strain that has been circulating in wild birds across Europe in recent months. This is different to the H5N6 strain which affected people in China last year and Public Health England have advised the risk to public health is very low. The Food Standards Agency have also offered reassurance that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.
A local ‘avian influenza prevention zone’ has been declared in the area of south Dorset where the diseased birds were found. This means it will be mandatory for all captive bird keepers in this Zone to put enhanced biosecurity measures in place. Further information can be found on GOV.UK. This Zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review as part of our work to monitor the threat of bird flu.
It is vital that anyone who keeps birds, whether a few in a back garden or thousands on a commercial unit is vigilant. All poultry keepers should:
•minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
•clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Defra approved disinfectant at entrances and exits
•clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry
•keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
•humanely control rats and mice
•place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
•keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
•keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet
Poultry keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 and bird keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA on 03000 200 301.
In Scotland, you should contact your local APHA office