Second outbreak of bird flu confirmed in north Northumberland​ ​

A second outbreak of bird flu has been confirmed in north Northumberland.

Monday, 14th February 2022, 4:40 pm
A view towards Wooler. Picture by Jane Coltman
A view towards Wooler. Picture by Jane Coltman

The latest confirmed case of the highly contagious H5N1 virus has been found in a non-commercial flock in Wooler where around 50 chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and geese are kept.

It comes just days after the first case of Avian Influenza was found on Holy Island.

Although the risk to public health is very low, it is a highly contagious virus that can rapidly spread between wild birds and commercial flocks with devastating consequences.

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It is a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to house or net all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild birds. This applies whether they have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock.

If a member of the public comes across a dead wild bird, they are asked to report it to DEFRA on 03459 335577 (select option 7) and not to touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds. Providing good location information for a dead or diseased bird is particularly important and location apps such as 'what3words', references can be very helpful.

Northumberland County Council’s public protection team is working closely with UKHSA - the UK Health Security Agency and the Animal and Plant Health Agency to contain the spread of the outbreak.

At Wooler a 3km Captive Bird (Monitoring) Control Zone has been set up which involves housing captive birds, enhanced record keeping of visitors, poultry and egg movements and a range of other criteria including strict bio-security.

A 10km surveillance zone has been put in place around the site of the outbreak where all commercial and non-commercial flocks will be carefully observed.

Officers from council’s public protection team have been knocking on doors to make local residents aware of the situation, offer reassurance and to advise of the measures they can take to reduce the spread of the virus. This includes walking dogs on leads, sticking to designated footpaths and avoiding the areas of the outbreak. Posters are also being put up around the area.

Elizabeth Morgan, the county council’s Director of Public Health said: “Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months can carry the disease and where wild birds are allowed to mix with domestic poultry this can lead to the disease spreading to captive birds.

“Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises.

“I’d like to reassure the public that this is a disease in birds. The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed that the risk to human health is very low, and the Food Standards Agency has said that Avian flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and does not affect the consumption of poultry or eggs.

"Avian Influenza is in no way connected to the Covid-19 pandemic which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is not carried in poultry and is a completely different virus.

“We are working with the owners and have strict biosecurity measures in place around the sites so we are confident we are doing all we can to try and contain the virus.”