Avian influenza (bird flu) viruses can be classified according to their ability to cause severe disease (pathogenicity) as either highly pathogenic or low pathogenic. This section provides information on the disease and the precautions that can be taken to minimise the risk of its introduction and spread.
Avian influenza is a notifiable disease and if you suspect it you must report it to your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office.
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The latest Veterinary Risk Assessment on the risk of an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic H5N8 Avian Influenza in domestic poultry or captive birds in Scotland is available to download. An Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) updated Outbreak Assessment for the current situation in Europe is also available.
The risk of bird flu in the UK from wild birds never disappears completely so it is essential that bird keepers maintain effective biosecurity all year round. An outbreak of bird flu in a small hobby or backyard flock can have an impact on commercial poultry sector through both the introduction of movement restrictions and temporary loss of exports with other countries.
There are some simple actions that can be taken now to help reduce the chance of your birds becoming infected. These could include steps to reduce contact with wild birds in ponds and other areas where water can be found. Governments in the UK have worked with stakeholders including National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS), Scottish SPCA, British Hen Welfare Trust and the Poultry Club of Great Britain to produce a new poster which provides top tips for avian biosecurity. More information about maintaining effective biosecurity is available below.
Any businesses with existing contingency plans should also consider reviewing them, given the new perspective provided by the recent outbreaks of H5N8 in UK.
All bird gatherings, regardless of species, are now permitted in Scotland under the general licence. Poultry, game birds or waterfowl may attend gatherings provided that they do not come from any any declared Avian Influenza Prevention Zones, Protection Zones or Surveillance Zones in the UK. The organiser of the gathering is responsible for ensuring that the conditions of the general licence are complied with, including strict biosecurity requirements. Further information and advice is available in our FAQ.
All bird gatherings are subject to the conditions of the general licence and prior notification to the Inverness Animal and Plant Health Agency Office. Non-compliance may constitute an offence and a person may be liable to a term not exceeding six months in prison, and/or a £5,000 fine on conviction.
If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local APHA office. Frequently asked questions and answers are available here.
The general licence may be amended or revoked at any time.
The best defence - as with all exotic animal diseases - is a high level of awareness and good biosecurity. Biosecurity means procedures or measures designed to prevent disease.
Poultry keepers and businesses in Scotland are reminded of the importance of maintaining biosecurity in their flocks and being vigilant to any signs of disease in their birds. We have published a biosecurity leaflet for all bird keepers and the document Biosecurity and preventing disease in captive birds (Defra/Wales/Scotland) is up to date.
Only approved disinfectants should be used and dispensed in accordance with specified dilution rates and labelling instructions.
If you suspect any strain of avian flu you must tell your nearest Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office immediately. Failure to do so can be deemed an offence.
Further information on biosecurity and good practice is available via the links below:
Notifiable Avian Diseases Biosecurity Leaflet for All Birdkeepers
Avian Influenza Information for Gamekeepers
Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Animal Health and Biosecurity
GB Notifiable Avian Disease Control Strategy
Great Britain Poultry Register
There is a legal requirement for all commercial poultry keepers with 50 or more birds to register their premises. The voluntary registration of premises with fewer than 50 birds is encouraged.
You can find out more information about registration here: https://www.gov.uk/poultry-registration
Case of H5N8 found in Scotland, Dec 2016
On 23rd December, a wild peregrine falcon found in Dumfries and Galloway tested positive for H5N8 Avian Influenza. No further cases of HPAI H5N8 have been detected in wild birds in Scotland.
As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where any ‘at risk’ bird species (wildfowl or gulls), birds of prey or five or more birds of any other species, are found dead in the same location and at the same time. Members of the public are asked to report these incidents to Defra’s national helpline (email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 03459 335577, Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm).
The last case of Avian Influenza in captive birds in Scotland was Low Pathogenic H5N1 in Dunfermline, January 2016. APHA have provided an Epidemiological Report for that case.
Cases of H5N8 found in GB (2016-2017)
A detailed list of the confirmed cases of avian influenza (H5N8) in captive birds in England and Wales is available on gov.uk and the Welsh Government website. A report summarising lessons from the 2016/17 AI outbreak has also been published.
APHA provide a report on weekly findings of HPAI H5N8 in wild birds in Great Britain.