The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has reminded poultry keepers and the public to remain vigilant following a confirmed finding of H5N8 bird flu in a dead wild duck in Carmarthenshire, Wales.
Welsh Chief Veterinary Officer Christianne Glossop confirmed the finding in a single wigeon-type duck today (Thursday, 22 December). This is the same strain of the disease confirmed at a turkey farm in Lincolnshire last week – though there is no suggestion that disease has spread from that farm. The strain has also been reported in wild, captive or domestic birds in many European countries, the Middle East and North Africa.
The advice from Public Health England (PHE) remains that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency has made it clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
Following the finding in Wales, we have reduced the reporting thresholds for wild bird surveillance to single birds of specified species known to be infected in Europe.
The Government continues to closely monitor the situation in Europe and has implemented a series of other measures to limit the threat of spread to poultry. These include the declaration of a Prevention Zone on 6 December, requiring all kept birds to be housed or otherwise separate from wild birds, and a ban on certain types of poultry gatherings announced earlier this week.
Further measures and surveillance have been in place for several months.
Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said:
This is the same strain we have seen in Lincolnshire and across Europe and this finding is not unexpected.
As this is a wild bird, it highlights the importance for poultry keepers to follow our clear advice on biosecurity and to comply fully with the prevention zone and temporary gatherings ban, announced earlier this month.
It is important to reiterate Public Health England’s advice that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.
We are working with ornithological groups to further strengthen surveillance and will continue to consider any other proportionate measures available to us to limit the risk of spread to poultry.
The Prevention Zone requires all keepers of poultry and other captive birds to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate, and protect them, from wild birds.
Earlier this week, steps were taken to further protect poultry and captive birds by introducing a temporary suspension on gatherings of poultry.
Members of the public are encouraged to report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls, or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location, to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) helpline on 0300 303 8268.
The Prevention Zone remains in place across Great Britain. All poultry and/or captive birds must be housed where practicable and owners must take all appropriate steps to ensure that:
Poultry and other captive birds are provided with feed and water which is not accessible to wild birds;
Any person who comes into contact with poultry and other captive birds must take all reasonable precautions to avoid the transfer of contamination between premises, including cleansing and disinfection of equipment, vehicles and footwear;
Steps are taken to reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products;
Steps are taken to implement effective vermin control programmes, including preventing the entry of wild birds, around buildings where poultry or captive birds are kept;
Housing and equipment is thoroughly cleansed and disinfected at the end of a production cycle;
Disinfectant at the right concentration is kept at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry housing or enclosures.
A case of avian flu was confirmed on a farm in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire on December 16.
The ban on gatherings of chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese applies in England, Scotland and Wales.
If you are concerned about the health of your birds you should seek advice from your veterinary surgeon. If you suspect that your birds are showing signs of the disease you should immediately report it to your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office.
Poultry keepers, including those with fewer than 50 birds, are encouraged to provide details of their flocks to the Poultry Register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately in the event of an avian disease outbreak so that they can take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.
APHA can be contacted on 0300 303 8268.
APHA helpline for reporting dead wild birds: 03459 335577.
For media enquiries contact Welsh Government Press Office on 029 2089 8169, or the Defra press office on 020 8225 7618.