Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 is spreading across the UK and mainland Europe, and is expected to remain an issue “for a considerable time”, according to the latest Defra International Disease Monitoring report.

wild geese
The risk level for the UK is still ‘HIGH’ for an incursion of an infected wild bird, says Defra.

A prevention zone has been put in place across the UK, requiring all poultry keepers to house their birds or take measures that keep their birds separate from wild birds thought to be spreading the virus. The order remains in place until 28 February, when it will be reviewed.

H5N8 was first identified in UK poultry last month, when APHA scientists responded to an outbreak on a turkey fattening farm near Louth, Lincolnshire.

A new strain of the disease H5N5, identified in Europe for the first time, has also been reported in Italy, the Netherlands and Montenegro. The origin and significance of this has yet to be established, although Defra believes the discovery is likely to be down to increased surveillance for H5N8.

Continuing risk

Defra experts said: “We should expect this virus to remain an issue and pose a continuing risk to our poultry sector for a considerable time.

“The risk level for the UK is still ‘HIGH’ for an incursion of an infected wild bird, but now we have wild bird findings, our level of uncertainty has reduced and the geographic area where we expect more findings in wild birds is wider.

“The risk to poultry on individual premises is still ‘LOW TO MEDIUM’ dependent on the level of on-farm biosecurity. The widespread location of the positive wild birds suggests that geographical region may be less important in terms of risk level for poultry premises.”

‘Not surprising’

Defra experts added: “We will continue with the epidemiological investigations on the premises and report any additional findings to the World Organisation for Animal Health and EU, as appropriate.

“We would like to remind all poultry keepers there are several pathways for the introduction of any notifiable avian disease into a poultry farm – housing alone will not be enough to reduce the risk of some of these pathways.”

Findings of dead wild birds – in particular, wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey and where more than five birds of any species are found dead in the same location – should be reported via Defra’s helpline, 03459 33 55 77.

  • Read the full story in the 23 January issue of Veterinary Times.
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2 Comments on "Avian flu virus expected to ‘pose continuing risk’ – Defra"

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5 months 4 days ago

“housing alone will not be enough”…the problem is that some of us “backyard poultry keepers” are following guidelines but others are not..perhaps because the “news” has kept quiet about the issue…..to protect big poultry business ????…either it is an issue or it isn’t…Defra need to be clearer ….why should I keep my few free range hens enclosed when others cannot see a reason to do so.?..they haven’t seen anything on news…not registered so are not informed directly etc etc

Peter Demetriadi
Peter Demetriadi
3 months 10 days ago
What is the point of restricting poultry movements or keeping them in (I don’t keep poultry myself) when mallards (a protected species, incidentally) are free to fly from farm to farm? What is the point of any restrictions on poultry movements if there are not restrictions on ‘domestic’ cats,which are allowed to go anywhere and eat anything and which are well documented in the USA and Germany as spreading Avian Flu (and e-coli and toxoplasmosis) and even transmitting Avian Flu to humans ? How do you stop a fox eating a sick mallard and spreading the avian flu elsewhere? If… Read more »

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