The UK is currently experiencing the largest ever Avian Influenza (AI) outbreak, with the vast majority of cases in England and small numbers of cases in each of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Bird flu can appear at any time of the year, however it’s often associated with the winter migration pattern of wild birds. The virus can be transmitted from bird to bird, but also through infected items, such as bedding, feed, feathers etc.
There are two types of AI:
HPAI – High Pathogen Avian Influenza – Severe disease and often fatal to susceptible birds
LPAI – Low Pathogen Avian Influenza – Generally mild disease or no disease at all (LPAI can turn into HPAI when spreading in a flock).
Commercial producers and smallholders/hobbyists are being advised to keep a close eye on their birds and if they have any concerns to speak to their vet.
Defra confirmed that they are seeing a spread of the disease within businesses that have sites close to each other, indicating that levels of biosecurity aren’t high enough to prevent the spread.
It’s advised that facilities are maintained properly, vehicles are cleaned and disinfected properly, and a visitors’ books are used and filled in regularly.
Most infections is introduced through faeces of wild birds, therefore it’s important to maintain high levels of biosecurity all the time and not just when there is disease present.
The key issues for biosecurity:
- Perimeter biosecurity
- Bedding management
- Building maintenance/design
- Location – near coasts, wetlands/migration routes/lakes
- Management and the controlling mind – don’t rely on your SOPs
- Record keeping – good records in an accessible format
- Cleaning and Disinfecting (don’t just disinfect without cleaning first)
- Staff/PPE discipline
- Virus survival is for weeks
- Vehicles – restrict access
- Separate premises under the same management in close proximity
- Co-location of infrastructure – resilience of your business, contingency planning and CPHs
- Licensing – moves/ restocking
There are no easy answers, it all requires real effort!