Avian influenza (bird flu)

Information on the latest situation, guidance on how to spot avian influenza (bird flu), what to do if you suspect it, and measures to prevent it.

Avian influenza (bird flu) mainly affects birds. It can also affect humans and other mammals.

Some strains of avian influenza cause a notifiable disease. If you suspect any strain of avian flu you must tell your nearest Animal and Plant and Health Agency (APHA) office immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.

Poultry keepers should remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain the highest levels of biosecurity at all times. If you have any concerns, seek prompt advice from your vet. Sign up to our Alerts Service to keep up to date with the latest news. You can also keep up to date by following Defra on Twitter.

You must register your poultry if you have flocks of 50 or more birds. Registering your poultry will help us contact you quickly during an outbreak of disease.

Latest situation

Case in Lancashire, July 2015

A case of H7N7 avian flu was confirmed near Preston, Lancashire on 13 July 2015. A 10 kilometre surveillance zone and an inner 3 kilometre protection zone have been imposed.

Within these zones a range of controls is in place to prevent the spread of disease. These include restrictions on the movement of poultry, carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure. There are also restrictions on bird gatherings (fairs, shows, exhibitions) and the release of game birds. The humane culling of all birds at the farm has been completed.

The restrictions are set out in detail in Avian influenza declaration 13 July 2015 (PDF, 1.07MB, 14 pages) and summarised in the movement controls and licences section below.

Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health from this strain is very low. The Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for consumers.

About avian influenza

How to spot avian influenza

There are 2 types of avian influenza.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the more serious type. It is often fatal in birds. The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • fewer eggs laid
  • increased mortality

Clinical signs can vary between species of bird and some species may show minimal clinical signs (ducks and geese).

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.

The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.

How avian influenza is spread

The disease spreads from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces.

The avian influenza virus changes frequently creating new strains and there is a constant risk that one of the new strains may spread easily among people. But there is no evidence that any recent strain of avian influenza has been able to spread directly between people.

Avian influenza isn’t an airborne disease.

Biosecurity guidance

It is essential that anyone keeping poultry is vigilant for any signs of disease and seeks prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.

You can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on your premises at all times. Measures include:

  • cleansing and disinfecting protective clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry; if practicable use disposable protective clothing
  • minimising potential contamination from manure, slurry and other products that could carry disease, by reducing movements of people, vehicles or equipment into and from areas where poultry are kept
  • thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a cycle
  • having disinfectant and cleaning material ready at farm entrances, so essential visitors can disinfect themselves before entering and leaving premises
  • minimising contact between poultry and wild birds

Read our guidance:

Guidance for the public

Public health

Some types of avian influenza can pass to people, but this is very rare. It usually requires very close contact between the person and infected birds. More information on avian influenza in people is available from Public Health England.

If you employ people who work with poultry or work with poultry yourself, you can also read advice from the Health and Safety Executive on protecting workers from avian influenza.

Food safety

Food Standards Agency (FSA) advice is that avian influenza does not pose a food safety risk for consumers.

Wild birds

If you find 5 or more wild birds dead in the same location, you should report them to the Defra helpline (Tel: 03459 33 55 77).

Trade, import and export issues

Exports to the EU

A 10 kilometre surveillance zone and an inner protection zone of 3 kilometres have been put in place in relation to the case in Lancashire. We are assessing the wider impact on international trade.

Imports from the EU

EU trade relies on strict certification for movement of live poultry, day old chicks and hatching eggs. Products such as poultry meat, table eggs and poultry products are not subject to certification within the EU. However, as a general rule only healthy birds are allowed to enter the food chain and therefore should not pose a risk.

Exports to Third Countries

Exports of live poultry and poultry related products are generally all certified in accordance with OIE rules on disease freedom, which provide for imports from free zones/regions and compartments/establishments, but some trading partners require the whole country to be free of avian influenza (bird flu). In terms of exports to third countries, we are working closely with industry partners to recognise their immediate priorities, and with the veterinary services of our trading partners, to ensure that measures are proportionate and that safe trade can continue.

Information and advice for those wishing to export live poultry and poultry products to third countries, following the confirmed case of avian influenza, is available on the Open to Export website

Imports from Third Countries

Under EU trade rules, only a very limited number of countries outside the EU are approved for import into the EU of live poultry. All live poultry and poultry related products including table eggs must be certified as disease free and therefore suitable for trade.

Movement controls and licences

The following information applies in relation to the case in Lancashire in July 2015 unless otherwise specified.

Movement controls

A 10 kilometre Surveillance Zone and an inner Protection Zone of 3 kilometres are in place. A detailed breakdown of the restrictions in place, and a map indicating the location of the zones, is in the Avian influenza declaration 13 July 2015 (PDF, 1.07MB, 14 pages)

This supersedes the previous Avian influenza temporary control zone declaration 10 July 2015 (PDF, 793KB, 11 pages) .

Protection Zone

If your premises is within a radius of 3 kilometres of the affected premises, you must:

  • keep poultry and other captive birds in their buildings or isolated from other poultry, captive birds and wild birds
  • ensure that all carcases that are not seized or disposed of by a veterinary inspector are disposed of in accordance with their instructions
  • not move poultry meat or carcases within or outside of the zone

Within the Protection Zone, no one can enter any place that is the subject of a restriction notice.

All premises within the Protection Zone are also in the Surveillance Zone (and the following restrictions also apply).

Surveillance Zone

If your premises is within a radius of 10 kilometres of the affected premises, you must:

  • not move poultry, other captive birds or mammals (including pigs) to or from premises where poultry or other captive birds are kept (exceptions apply for pet animals)
  • keep a record of any individuals visiting premises where poultry or other captive birds are kept except: where people are moving to zoos or wildlife parks (providing the public has no access to areas where birds are kept) and on public rights of way
  • keep a record of all poultry or poultry eggs entering or leaving premises within the zone except where eggs are being moved direct to retail premises or onwards from such premises
  • ensure appropriate biosecurity measures are in place for people entering or leaving premises where poultry, other captive birds or eggs are kept
  • not remove or spread poultry litter, manure or slurry

Anyone involved in the transport or marketing of poultry or poultry eggs must also make a record of all those transported or marketed.

A ban on bird gatherings (such as shows or exhibitions) and the release of game birds is in place.

Cleansing and disinfection of vehicles and instruments which may be contaminated must be carried out as soon as materials are unloaded. Vehicles leaving premises within the zone must also be cleaned and disinfected.

Requirements relating to the marking, sourcing, cutting, transportation and storage of fresh meat and meat products are also in place.

Movement licences

Licences are available for certain movements from the Protection Zone and Surveillance Zone, which would otherwise be prohibited, in 2 categories:

  • general licences: if you comply with the terms of the published licence, you are allowed to carry out a movement or activity which would otherwise be prohibited – you don’t need to submit an application
  • specific licences: with these, you need to submit an application to APHA, for permission to carry out a one-off movement or activity, subject to conditions

General licences:

The following general licences are currently available:

Specific licences:

You can currently apply for the following specific licences:

  • movement of poultry into the Protection and Surveillance Zone for slaughter at a designated slaughterhouse
  • movement of day old chicks from a hatchery within the Surveillance Zone
  • movement of poultry to slaughter from a premises in the Surveillance Zone
  • movement of hatching eggs from the Surveillance Zone to a designated hatchery
  • movement of hatching eggs from the Surveillance Zone to a designated premises for scientific, diagnostic, pharmaceutical purposes

To apply for a specific licence you must:

We consider each application on a case by case basis. If a specific licence is issued, it will allow a one-off movement and be subject to certain conditions based on disease control risk.

We may make extra licences for other movements or activities available in due course.

Guidance for Food Business Operators

Slaughterhouses must apply to the Food Standards Agency for designation if they are located within the Protection and Surveillance Zones or intend to receive birds from these zones. You can get the application form by emailing

We have produced guidance for Food Business operators about marking, separation and movement of meat from poultry (including meat from farmed game birds):

Bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings

This information is general but should be read together with the specific controls applied in relation to the case in Lancashire in July 2015.

Bird gatherings are permitted (outside any specific control zones which may be in force) but must comply with all of the conditions in the Bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings - general licence (PDF, 29KB, 4 pages) as amended by Bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings - general licence (amendment) (PDF, 11.3KB, 1 page) .

You should also read our Guidance for the conduct of bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings (PDF, 97.9KB, 2 pages) .


You may be entitled to compensation if your poultry are killed under orders from government or APHA:

  • for poultry not diseased at the time of killing, compensation is payable at the value of the birds immediately before killing
  • for poultry dead or diseased at the time of killing, no compensation is payable
  • APHA makes an assessment of the disease status of the poultry, based on clinical judgement of the number of birds considered to be infected with avian influenza
  • compensation is not paid for consequential losses
  • only healthy poultry killed under orders from government or APHA may be eligible for compensation

Valuation is determined by one of the following methods:

  • APHA use poultry valuation tables to calculate compensation for poultry culled to prevent the spread of avian influenza
  • APHA approved valuer who is suitably qualified and experienced to value the species and type of poultry
  • Specialist poultry consultants (when no other method of valuation is possible)

Please consult your local APHA office for further details.

Cases in Yorkshire and Hampshire, November 2014 and February 2015

The last confirmed cases of avian influenza were a low severity case of H7N7 on 2 February 2015 in chickens at a farm in Hampshire, and a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 in ducks on premises in East Yorkshire on 16 November 2014. All movement restrictions following these outbreaks have been lifted.

We have retained this information for the time being. The Low pathogenic avian influenza declaration 2 February 2015 (PDF, 1.06MB, 4 pages) was revoked by Revocation of low pathogenic avian influenza declaration 28 February 2015 (PDF, 13.6KB, 1 page) . The Avian Influenza declaration 16 November 2014 (PDF, 970KB, 12 pages) and Avian Influenza declaration 12 December 2014 (PDF, 713KB, 6 pages) were revoked by Avian Influenza declaration 21 December 2014 (PDF, 14.2KB, 1 page) .

We have published reports relating to the investigations carried out to describe and explain the outbreaks of bird flu in Yorkshire and Hampshire in 2014 and 2015.

Control strategy

Disease control strategy

Confirmed cases of avian influenza, if they occur, are controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases and the notifiable avian disease control strategy.

Legislation on avian influenza

The legislation covering avian influenza includes:

Enforcement provisions

Avian influenza controls are enforced by local authorities.

Penalties for offences

Breach of controls in place is an offence, with a penalty of up to £5,000 on summary conviction and up to 3 months’ imprisonment per offence.