FARMING: Need to be aware of any signs of bird flu

Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (bird flu) have recently been confirmed in Herefordshire, South West England, North West England and Lincolnshire.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26th November 2020, 12:00 am
Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) have been reported.
Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) have been reported.

As a notifiable disease it is extremely important that owners of poultry and captive birds are aware of the signs displayed in this disease and how to report them.

Avian Influenza spreads by direct contact between birds or indirectly through contaminated faeces or bodily fluids. It is also spread by fomites such as vehicles and clothing, as well as in feed and water supplies.

Clinical signs include respiratory distress, diarrhoea and loss of appetite.

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Some birds may present with swollen heads and a blue discolouration to their neck and throat. Reduced egg production and increased mortality may be the first signs noticed in a flock.

This disease can have a devastating impact on both captive and wild birds therefore strict biosecurity is essential to stop it spreading.

Biosecurity measures that should be put in place include ensuring that there is no contact between neighbouring captive birds, as well as preventing contact with wild birds, by providing appropriate fencing.

The living area should be kept as clean as possible, with feed spillages cleaned up quickly and feed kept in an enclosed area to prevent attracting wild birds.

Rodent control is also important, as well as disinfecting any vehicles, equipment or clothing that come into contact with the birds. Birds should be kept a close eye on and any suspicious signs reported to your vet.

All keepers of captive birds and poultry are encouraged to register their birds with the APHA so that they can be contacted in the event of an outbreak nearby.

This is a legal requirement for keepers of more than 50 birds. Some strains of Avian Influenza are zoonotic however Public Health England advises that the risk is very low and properly cooked poultry and eggs may still be consumed.

We are still able to see pet poultry and captive birds as patients but please call before coming to the practice as we may need to take extra precautions.

If you suspect any type of bird flu in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7).