The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer is urging poultry keepers in Lincolnshire not to be complacent, and to carry out urgent biosecurity measures, after nine outbreaks of bird flu were confirmed in the county.
All nine outbreaks are near Alford in the East Lindsey District of Lincolnshire. All birds on the infected premises will be humanely culled. It has been described as the UK’s largest ever outbreak of bird flu with over 60 cases confirmed across the country since the start of November.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 was confirmed at both an eighth and ninth premises near Alford on the December 17 and 18 respectively. A 3km Protection Zone and 10km Surveillance Zone has been put in place around the premises.
Officers from Lincolnshire Trading Standards haver recently been visiting properties in the Alford area to reassure residents and provide advice to businesses.
This comes after the UK Health Security Agency confirmed that the risk to public health is very low. People can spread the disease on their clothes and shoes, so before going into bird enclosures they should wash their hands, change or clean and disinfect their footwear.
To help mitigate the spread of the disease, the government introduced new housing measures last month. This means that if you keep chickens, ducks, geese or any other birds you are now legally required to keep them indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures. If you do not do this, the disease could kill your birds and you could be fined!
The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss wants poultry keepers in Lincolnshire to take urgent action to help stop the spread of bird flu.
She said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease including introducing housing measures. However we are seeing a growing number of bird flu cases both on commercial farms and in backyard birds right across the country, with a high number of cases in Lincolnshire.
“Many poultry keepers have excellent biosecurity standards but the number of cases we are seeing suggests that not enough is being done to keep bird flu out. Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands you must take action now to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.
“Implementing scrupulous biosecurity has never been more critical. You must regularly clean and disinfect your footwear and clothes before entering enclosures, stop your birds mixing with any wild birds and only allow visitors that are strictly necessary. It is your actions that will help keep your birds safe.”
Mark Keal, Lincolnshire Trading Standards manager, said: “Officers have continued visiting properties around Alford over the weekend and this week. We hope to finish visiting all the properties within the identified protection zones on Thursday (December 23).
“Visiting properties in these areas not only allows us to reassure local residents, but it also helps us and the Animal and Plant Health Agency build a picture of where birds are being kept locally so we can provide advice.
“It is currently a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK – whether they have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock – to keep their birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.”
People are advised not to touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that they find. Anyone who finds dead swans, geese or ducks or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, should report them to the DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) helpline on 03459 33 55 77.