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Avian influenza (bird flu) in winter 2017 to 2018

The latest updates on avian influenza (bird flu) in winter 2017 to 2018.

Chickens in a field

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease of birds. There is a constant risk the disease may arrive and all poultry keepers should review their biosecurity, sign up for disease alerts, and register their birds with APHA. Keepers must report any unexplained deaths or sickness to their vet.

Public Health England advises the risk to public health from H5N8 and H5N6 avian influenza is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said the disease poses no food safety risk for UK consumers.

Current situation

On 18 January 2018, Defra introduced an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in England. This means it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

This comes as H5N6 bird flu was confirmed in 13 wild birds in Warwickshire, a few days after bird flu – highly expected to be the same strain - was found in wild birds in South Dorset on 12 January 2018.

We’ve introduced a new Avian Influenza Prevention Zone which applies to everyone who keeps poultry or captive birds in England. All keepers must follow our detailed legal requirements on strict biosecurity, whether they have commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock. View our best practice biosecurity advice.

Read more about the current risks in our latest veterinary outbreak assessment.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said:

Following the latest finding of bird flu in wild birds in Warwickshire, we are extending our action to help prevent the virus spreading to poultry and other domestic birds.

Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements and this is in your interests to do, to protect your birds from this highly infectious virus.

What to do if you keep poultry and captive birds

If you keep poultry – whether that’s a few birds in your garden or a large commercial flock – you must take steps now to review your biosecurity. You should also:

  • register your birds with APHA;

  • report any sick birds;

  • sign up for disease alerts.

Review your biosecurity

Bird flu is spread by direct contact between birds and through contamination in the environment, for example in bird droppings. This means wild birds carrying the disease can infect domestic poultry, so the best way to reduce the risk of your poultry catching bird flu is to minimise chances for them to come into contact with wild birds or their droppings by practising good biosecurity.

You must review your biosecurity measures now. This means reading government guidance on good biosecurity and taking action to:

  • minimise movement in and out of your bird enclosure
  • clean footwear before and after visiting your birds
  • keep bird enclosures clean and tidy and regularly disinfecting any hard surfaces
  • humanely control rats and mice
  • place birds’ food and water in fully-enclosed areas that wild birds cannot access, and remove any spilled feed
  • keep your birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around the outdoor areas they access
  • make sure equipment, feed and bedding are stored undercover so they cannot be contaminated by wild birds
  • where possible keep chickens and turkeys separate from ducks and geese

Read and download our advice poster for keepers of poultry (PDF, 1 page).

Register your birds

We encourage all keepers to register their birds with Defra so that we can contact you quickly if there is a disease outbreak in your area and you need to take action. If you have more than 50 birds, you are legally required to register your flock within one month of their arrival at your premises. Find out how to register your birds.

Report signs of disease

If you suspect disease in your own flock, or you find dead wild birds such as wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey, you must let Defra know. Call the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

Sign up for disease alerts

By signing up to the free disease alert system you will get text alerts and emails informing you of the latest news about bird flu and Newcastle disease outbreaks in Great Britain.

Further information

Recent announcements on avian influenza

Published 21 November 2017
Last updated 18 January 2018 + show all updates
  1. Updated latest situation - avian influenza prevention zone extended to cover England
  2. We have declared a Prevention Zone in areas of South Dorset - imposing requirements on all bird keepers - after H5N6 bird flu has been found in wild birds in that area.
  3. First published.