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.
Wild bird cases found in GB
Multiple findings of HPAI H5N8 in wild birds have been made across GB since 19th December 2016.
On 23rd December, a wild peregrine falcon found in Dumfries and Galloway tested positive for H5N8 Avian Influenza.
These cases of H5N8 in wild birds were not unexpected and show a broad geographical spread across GB. 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 email@example.com or telephone 03459 335577, Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm).
APHA provide a report on weekly findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu) H5N8 in wild birds in Great Britain.
Sign up to the APHA Alerts Service to keep up to date with the latest news.
On 4 January 2017 the Scottish Government announced that the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will remain in force until 00:01 on 28 February 2017. As part of the requirements of the zone, all poultry and captive birds in Scotland must be kept indoors or otherwise kept separate from wild birds, and bird keepers must also apply heightened biosecurity measures where practical. The full text of the declaration describes the list of requirements for bird keepers and we have a dedicated page of Frequently Asked Questions about the measures, and produced a poster aimed at backyard poultry or small flock bird keepers. Similar zones are in place in England and Wales.
Since October 2016, there have been multiple reports of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 in wild birds and poultry across mainland Europe, mostly affecting waterfowl. An EPIC risk assessment assessing the effect of housing on the risk from H5N8 is also available. Keeping birds indoors reduces the risk of exposure to the virus, but excellent biosecurity is also necessary to keep disease out. Guidance on biosecurity is available in the links below. Avian influenza is a notifiable disease and if you suspect it you must report it to your local APHA office.
An Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) updated Outbreak Assessment for the current situation in Europe is available here.
Case in Lincolnshire, Jan 2017
On 16 January 2017, avian influenza (H5N8) was confirmed in turkeys at a farm in East Lindsay, Lincolnshire. There is unlikely to be a direct link to the previous case identifed in Lincolnshire (Near Louth, 16 Dec 2016) but a full investigation is underway to understand the origin of the disease and confirm that there are no further cases.
Further information about this case, and others in England, is available on Defra's website.
Case in North Yorkshire, Jan 2017
On 6 January 2017, avian influenza (H5N8) was confirmed in a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks on a premises near Settle in North Yorkshire. An investigation is underway to understand the origin of the disease and confirm that there are no further cases.
Case in Carmarthenshire, Jan 2017
On 3 January 2017, avian influenza (H5N8) was confirmed in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks at a premises in Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire. An investigation is underway to understand the origin of the disease and confirm that there are no further cases.
Further information about this case is available on the Welsh Government's website.
Case in Lincolnshire, Dec 2016
On 16 December 2016, avian influenza was confirmed in turkeys at a farm near Louth in Lincolnshire. The virus has been confirmed to be the Highly Pathogenic (HPAI) H5N8 strain which has been seen across mainland Europe in recent months. An investigation is underway to understand the origin of the disease and confirm that there are no further cases.
The last cast 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.
Following a revised risk assessment, a temporary suspension of gatherings of some species of birds is now in force across Scotland and the rest of Great Britain.
The bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings general licence allows the collecting together of captive birds (not poultry, game birds or waterfowl) from more than one source at one location, while minimising the risk of disease spreading between flocks. The licence allows these bird gatherings to proceed subject to conditions and prior notification to the Inverness Animal and Plant Health Agency Office. Non-compliance with the general licence 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.
Any persons holding or attending a permitted gathering must read and adhere to all of the conditions in the general licence and the additional requirements highlighted in the declaration of the Prevention Zone. However, you may wish to consider rescheduling gatherings if it is practical to do so - avian influenza virus can be spread by visitors on their boots, etc. 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.
This licence permits gatherings of captive birds (not poultry, gamebirds or waterfowl), which include:
- Columbiformes (including doves and pigeons)
- Passerines (including finches, budgerigar, canary)
- Psittaciformes (including parrots, macaws, cockatiels)
- Falconiformes (including hawks, harriers, buzzards, eagles)
- Strigiformes (including owls)
The species of poultry that may not benefit from this general licence and are prohibited in accordance with regulation 4(1) of the Preventative Measures (Scotland) Order 2007 are:
- birds of the family galliforme (including pheasants,partridge, quail, chickens, turkey, guinea fowl)
- birds of the family anseriforme (including ducks, geese, swans)
- birds that are reared or kept in captivity for the production of meat or eggs for consumption, the production of other commercial products, for restocking supplies of game or for the purposes of any breeding programme for the production of these categories of birds
Should the risk change, the veterinary risk assessment will be revised, subsequently the general licence may be amended or revoked.
The best defence - as with all exotic animal diseases - is a high level of awareness and good biosecurity. 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 new biosecurity leaflet for all bird keepers and detailed guidance on biosecurity and preventing disease in poultry and captive birds within a Prevention Zone.
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