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UK declared free from avian influenza
International standards have been met to declare the country free from avian flu.
Chief vet urges ongoing vigilance as the winter months approach.

The UK has been declared free from avian influenza following a significant outbreak of the disease last winter.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said international standards have been met to declare the country free from avian flu but urged poultry keepers to remain vigilant for signs of the disease as the winter approaches.

“The last year has been very challenging for all those who keep poultry and captive birds, and I would like to thank everyone for their efforts in helping us contain the disease,” she said. “This is an important milestone that will help our efforts to re-open export markets.”

The highly pathogenic strain of avian flu continues to spread throughout Europe in both wild and captive birds. Experts fear that as winter sets in, the possibility of migratory birds flying to the UK will increase the risks for domestic poultry.

A total of 26 cases of avian influenza were confirmed in kept birds and wild poultry in the UK between November 2020 and March 2021. For all cases, the APHA introduced movement restrictions to mitigate the disease spread and carried out investigations into the source and potential spread of the infection.

Several measures were also introduced to protect poultry from wild birds, including a ban on bird gatherings and a requirement for bird keepers to keep their flocks indoors.

“While we are now free of bird flu in this country there is a constant risk of the disease returning through wild birds and this is likely to increase as winter approaches, temperatures fall, and more migratory birds start arriving in the UK,” Ms Middlemiss added.

“Poultry and captive bird keepers should maintain good biosecurity practises, such as cleaning footwear, feeding birds indoors, and minimising contact with wild birds. Building these simple actions into routines now will go a long way to limiting the risk of future outbreaks.”

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Avian flu outbreak at RSPB Minsmere

News Story 1
 RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk has confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza on its site. The coastal nature reserve has seen an increase in dead birds recently, and has said that it is 'extremely concerned' about the potential impacts on bird populations, with 2021 and 2022 seeing the largest ever outbreak in the UK.

In a statement, RSPB said: "We appreciate that it is distressing, for both visitors and staff, to see dead or dying birds at our site but we ask that if visitors see any dead or unwell birds, they do not touch or go near them and that they report it to us at our Visitor Centre during its opening hours, or by emailing us on outside of these times."  

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