Avian influenza (or 'bird flu') is a very infectious disease that can infect birds. The disease can show itself in a number of different forms, ranging from relatively mild 'low pathogenic avian influenza' (LPAI) to severe 'highly pathogenic avian influenza' (HPAI), according to the subtype. Typically, HPAI develops suddenly, and often kills large numbers of birds. Details of the symptoms to look out for are listed in our website section (see back page). If you are suspicious that your birds have any form of avian influenza, you MUST contact your local Animal Health Office immediately.
This leaflet gives sources of information and advice on how to prevent disease in game birds, and details the possible implications of an outbreak of disease.
Advice on biosecurity is available that has been designed to raise the awareness of keepers of poultry, game and other captive birds, regarding what you can do now to minimise the risk to your birds. A guide ' Avian Influenza - Biosecurity information for all bird keepers' has been produced to help you to find the information you need to help keep your stock free from disease.
Many diseases, including avian influenza, are spread by direct bird-to-bird contact through secretions and faeces, and by indirect spread through contaminated feed, water, implements, clothing etc. Taking steps now to ensure good standards of cleanliness will reduce the risk of disease spread. You should also:
- Review and consider the risk of disease to your birds with your vet.
- Plan how you will manage your birds if there is a need to isolate them from wild birds.
- Feed and water birds indoors where possible, to reduce mixing between your birds and wild birds.
- Be watchful and monitor your birds frequently.
All holdings that keep birds for wild game restocking should follow good biosecurity practices.
Importing and exporting game birds
Millions of game birds are imported to the UK every year. There are measures in place to prevent these birds introducing avian influenza to the UK. These actions, along with measures that game bird importers can take to help reduce the risk further, are contained in the leaflet ' Avian Influenza (bird flu): Importation of game birds' produced by the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) and Defra. The advice includes details of legal requirements that must be complied with, and management practices to minimise the risk of introducing disease.
Birds being exported from the UK are also subject to requirements. Birds can only be authorised for export if they come from an inspected holding which follows guidelines on biosecurity, and if they have been inspected in the two months prior to export.
Disease outbreak restrictions
Where an infected wild bird or poultry premises is found, restrictions are put in place. Restrictions cover at least 10 km around a HPAI-infected wild bird or poultry premises, and at least 1 km around an LPAI-infected poultry premises. During an outbreak, the following restrictions could affect you:
- Housing birds and separating flocks from wild birds
- Shooting restrictions
- Movement of birds and products
Housing birds and separating flocks from wild birds
Guidance has been issued on ' Preparing for Avian Influenza - Separating domestic birds from wild birds'. The guidance outlines measures necessary for disease control requirements in the event of an outbreak. Page 7 of the guidance advises that if a housing requirement is introduced, captive pheasants, partridges and other game birds should be housed whenever possible, and, as a minimum, all feeding should take place under cover.
Game birds may have been moved into release pens at the time restrictions come into force, and may be moving in and out of the pens. They are regarded as wild birds, and would not generally be subject to restrictions. In this circumstance gamekeepers should continue normal practice, including feeding the released birds. It is very unlikely that culling of wild birds would ever be undertaken as a disease control measure. However, on an infected property, an effort could be made to catch and slaughter birds that are still in or returning to the pens, in order to prevent the spread of disease.
Restrictions on shooting wild birds may be required in times of increased levels of risk. European Commission Decisions require all shooting to be banned within 10km of a finding of a HPAI-infected wild bird, except under licence. Shooting and related activities may need to be restricted further if they create a significant risk of disease spread through gatherings of people or birds, or cause the dispersal of wild birds.
Movement of birds and products
Within the restriction zones, controls are put in place on the movement of all captive birds, hatching eggs from captive birds, poultry meat and other poultry products. Table eggs are NOT included in these controls. These restrict movements both within and moving in and out of the restriction zone. While game birds are captive, they are subject to these movement controls. Hence during an outbreak, any game premises affected by movement controls cannot release birds or restock their supplies until the controls are lifted.
Great Britain Poultry Register
There is a legal requirement for all poultry keepers with 50 or more birds to register their premises. The voluntary registration of premises with less than 50 birds is welcomed. For further information see the GB Poultry Register webpage.
Subtypes of avian influenza:
Symptoms to look out for:
Local animal health offices:
Biosecurity information for all bird keepers:
(also available as a leaflet)
British Veterinary Poultry Association / Defra advice on avian influenza and the importation of game birds:
Preparing for avian influenza - separating flocks from wild birds:
(also available as a leaflet)
Assessing risks of avian influenza where poultry are kept:
(also available as a leaflet)
Avian influenza Contingency Plan:
Defra - Avian influenza advice on game birds:
British Association for Shooting and Conservation - Avian flu and shooting:
Great Britain Poultry Register - Defra:
For further information, or paper copies of these leaflets, phone 0131 244 3707