Agriculture, Forestry and Food Environment

Avian Influenza: the latest developments

09 January 2017

Article by Elfyn Henderson National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Photograph of a cockerel in a fieldThe Welsh Government has introduced restrictions in response to Avian Influenza outbreaks in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Since the restrictions were first announced on 6 December 2016, cases have been confirmed in the UK, including in Carmarthenshire.

In south-west France, where significantly more cases have been recorded, a large-scale cull of free range ducks and geese is currently underway.

Avian Influenza – sometimes referred to as bird flu – is a highly contagious viral disease affecting the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous system of many species of birds. The strain in question is called ‘Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N8)’.

The Welsh Government has stressed that Avian Influenza is a bird disease and that it is rare for humans to become infected.

Public Health Wales has said the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said Avian Influenza does not pose a food safety risk.

However, given the potential risk to the global human population posed by a new influenza virus that differs significantly from recent or existing strains of human influenza viruses, it is Welsh Government policy to control any Avian Influenza outbreak as quickly as possible.

Timeline of events

6 December – Avian Influenza Prevention Zone

Lesley Griffiths, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, declared the whole of Wales as an ‘Avian Influenza Prevention Zone’, as a precautionary measure. The zone is currently due to be in place until 28 February.

The zone requires the immediate and compulsory housing of domestic chickens, hens, turkeys and ducks, or where this is not practical, their complete separation from contact with wild birds. For farmed geese, gamebirds and other captive birds, keepers should take practical steps to keep these birds separate from wild birds.

Avian Influenza Prevention Zones have also been declared in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, ensuring a consistent approach covering the whole of the UK.

16 December – Case confirmed in Lincolnshire

H5N8 was confirmed in turkeys on a poultry farm near Louth in Lincolnshire.

20 December – Gatherings of poultry suspended

In response to the Lincolnshire case, the Cabinet Secretary introduced a temporary suspension on gatherings (for example shows or events) of some species of birds to further protect poultry and captive birds.

22 December – Case confirmed in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire

H5N8 was confirmed in a wild duck in Llanelli. Further H5N8 cases have been confirmed in dead wild birds in England and Scotland.

3 January – Case confirmed in Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire

H5N8 was confirmed in a back yard flock of chickens and ducks in Pontyberem. In response to this the Welsh Government has put in place a 3 km Protection Zone and 10 km Surveillance Zone around the infected premises, to limit the risk of the disease spreading and as part of the wider surveillance and disease control measures.

4 January – Cull announced in south-west France

In response to 89 reported cases of H5N8, the French Government announced a cull of free range ducks and geese in the Gers, Landes and Hautes-Pyrenees areas of south-west France. Some 800,000 birds, out of a total population of around 18 million in the region, are due to be culled between 5 and 20 January.

7 January – Case confirmed in Yorkshire

H5N8 was confirmed in a back yard flock of chickens and ducks in Settle in North Yorkshire.

Reporting suspected and potential cases

Keepers of poultry and/or other captive birds are encouraged to seek advice from a veterinary surgeon if they are concerned about the health of their birds. They are also encouraged to report any suspected signs of Avian Influenza to their local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office immediately.

Poultry keepers 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.

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 Defra helpline on 03459 335577.

Further information

Further information, including a detailed questions and answers booklet (287KB), can be found on the Welsh Government website.

There is also information on the UK Government website.