bird flu

Defra has extended an avian flu prevention zone to cover all of England after further cases of bird flu were confirmed in wild birds in Warwickshire.

It follows the winter’s first reported outbreak of avian flu found in wild birds in Dorset last week.

Testing of the Warwickshire birds remained ongoing, said Defra, but they were suspected to be carrying the H5N6 strain, the same as that found in the Dorset birds and across Europe in recent months.

“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,” said chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens.

“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.”

Public Health England maintained its advice that risk to public health remained “very low”, while the FSA confirmed the disease posed no food safety risk to consumers.

New biosecurity measures implemented to prevent the spread of the disease include extra precautions for keepers with more than 500 birds, including restricting access of non-essential people and vehicles, and a requirement to clean and disinfect vehicles, equipment and footwear.

Defra also advised keepers to keep chickens and turkeys separate from ducks and geese and sign up for disease alerts. It added that there were currently no plans to carry out any culls or put movement restrictions in place.

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association reacted to the news with warnings to follow Defra’s biosecurity measures, following the bird flu outbreak of last year that forced many free-range egg suppliers to keep birds inside for several months.

“We welcome the move from Defra to heighten biosecurity in light of the further discovery of avian influenza,” said BFREPA chief executive Robert Gooch.

“It’s vital that all poultry keepers - including small backyard flocks - follow the guidance that has been issued today so that all flocks are protected.”