Monday, 6 December 2021

Avian influenza - case of disease confirmed in poultry near Gretna, Dumfriesshire, Dumfries and Galloway

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), Sheila Voas, has confirmed that a flock of free-range hens have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1.  See Press Notice.

In order to limit the further spread of disease, appropriate restrictions have been imposed, and a 3 km Protection Zone and 10 km Surveillance Zone have been declared, due to take effect 00:01 (am) 04 December.  Within these zones, a range of different controls and restrictions will be implemented.  These include restrictions on the movement of poultry, carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure.

Keepers can find out if their premises is in a zone on this interactive map.

A large percentage of the 22,000 birds on the premises have already succumbed to disease and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will carry out humane culling of the remaining birds for disease control and animal welfare purposes.

 

Outbreak Overview

 

The confirmation of this case of HPAI H5N1 is the second in Scotland in the current 2021/22 AI season, with HPAI H5N1 being confirmed at a premises near Arbroath, Angus, on 03 November 2021.  These cases are part of a wider outbreak that has involved cases of HPAI H5N1 across Great Britain:

·         26 are in England

·         3 are in Wales

·         2 are in Scotland

This is now the largest ever UK outbreak of avian influenza with 31 confirmed cases (prior to this, the largest number of cases was 26 cases of HPAI in the UK in 2020/2021 and 13 cases in 2016/2017).

In light of these outbreaks and high numbers of findings among wild bird populations in the UK, the risk of incursion of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 infection in wild birds is HIGH (occurs often).  The risk of poultry and captive bird exposure to HPAI H5 across Great Britain is MEDIUM where biosecurity is sub-optimal, and is LOW where stringent biosecurity measures are applied.

Advice to Keepers

The further detection of HPAI H5N1 at a premises in Scotland, and the cases highlighted above, do not alter the advice from Public Health Scotland that the risk to human health from the virus is very low, and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.  It does not affect the consumption of poultry products, including eggs.

Producers and bird keepers are reminded that they are legally required to comply with the Order to house birds that came in to effect, as part of an Avian Influenza Protection Zone (AIPZ), on 24 November 2021, and to follow biosecurity procedures, regardless of the number of birds being kept.  Keepers who are concerned about the health or welfare of their flock should seek veterinary advice immediately.

Clinical signs indicative of avian influenza must be reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Field OfficeFailure to do so is an offence.

High standards of biosecurity must be maintained as good practice for the health of your birds, and good biosecurity is an essential defence against diseases, such as avian influenza, and is key to limiting the spread of avian influenza in an outbreak.

Keepers of Pigeons

Within the AIPZ, and in recognition of their welfare requirements, pigeons can be flown each day for exercise for up to an hour, as long as keepers are not in a Protection Zone (PZ) or Surveillance Zone (SZ) and provided keepers act responsibly.  For example, this could be for a brief period before feeding, say half an hour, which will ensure the return of the birds promptly when their feed goes out.  

When not flying, pigeons must be housed or, where not possible, kept in a fully netted and ideally covered area that keeps kept birds separate from wild birds and minimises contact with wild bird faeces, feathers etc.  Lofts should not be left open for several hours for the birds to come and go as they please.

You may train birds as a single loft, but must not mix birds from other lofts (this would constitute a bird gathering and must be notified to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) 7 days in advance and comply with all the requirements of the relevant bird gatherings general licence).

Birds of Prey

Within the AIPZ, and in recognition of their welfare requirements, birds of prey can be flown each day for exercise for up to an hour, including for pest control, as long as you are not in a Protection Zone (PZ) or Surveillance Zone (SZ).  You should avoid direct contact between your birds and wild birds, either directly (e.g. catching wild birds) or indirectly wherever possible (as avian influenza may be present in the environment).

This may require keepers to take a precautionary approach as to how long they allow their birds out to exercise, dependent upon their local environment etc. while taking account of their bird’s welfare and need to exercise.  When not flying, birds of prey must be housed or, where not possible, kept in a fully netted and ideally covered area that keeps kept birds separate from wild birds and minimises contact with wild bird faeces, feathers etc.  It is also recommended that birds of prey are not fed with hunted wild waterfowl, as the avian influenza virus can survive in meat for considerable periods of time, even if frozen.

Bird Gatherings

Gatherings of all types of birds are currently permitted, with the exception of Galliformes (including chickens, turkeys, pheasants, partridge, quail, and guinea fowl) and Anseriformes (including ducks, geese, swans and other species of waterfowl).

All other bird gatherings, including those involving pigeons and birds of prey, are currently permitted, provided that the gathering does not take place in a PZ or SZ and none of the birds originate from one of these zones. 

It is also a requirement that APHA have been notified of the gathering at least 7 days before the event and that the gathering meets all the requirements of the bird gatherings general licence.

Compliance with AIPZ Housing Measures

As previously stated, within the AIPZ is it a legal requirement to house your birds or otherwise keep them separate from wild birds.  Avian influenza controls, including the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ), are enforced by Trading Standards or the Environmental Health Service of a Local Authority.

See our postcode tool available on gov.scot to find details of how to contact your Local Authority with any reports of non-compliance.


GB Poultry Register

In GB, you are legally required to register your birds if you keep more than 50 birds. Keepers with less than 50 birds are strongly encouraged to register.  It is also a legal requirement to notify APHA of any significant changes in the average number of birds kept.

Further advice for keepers can be found at avian influenza advice.