Keepers of poultry and other captive birds have been told to keep them inside to protect them from a highly-infectious strain of bird flu circulating in mainland Europe.
Bird owners must keep chickens, turkeys and ducks indoors for 30 days or take steps to separate them from wild birds.
Outbreaks of the H5N8 bird flu strain have been confirmed in poultry and wild birds in several countries across Europe including Austria, France, and the Netherlands.
No cases have been found in the UK yet and Public Health England (PHE) advises that the threat to human health remains very low.
Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “While no cases of H5N8 avian flu have been found in the UK, and PHE advises the public health threat is low, we are closely monitoring the situation across Europe and have scaled up surveillance in response to the heightened risk.
“As a precaution, and to allow time for poultry and captive bird keepers to put in place appropriate biosecurity measures, we have declared a 30-day Prevention Zone to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds.
“Even when birds are housed a risk of infection remains so this must be coupled with good biosecurity - for example disinfecting clothing and equipment, reducing poultry movement and minimising contact between poultry and wild birds.”
Poultry keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.
They can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, including:
- cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
- reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry are kept to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products and using effective vermin control
- thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
- keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry housing or enclosures
- minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds