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Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease that mainly affects wild and captive birds such as poultry and game birds.
Avian Influenza Prevention Zone
On 29 November 2021 the government introduced an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone Order (AIPZ) which covers the whole of Great Britain.
Under the Order it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK (whether they have pet birds commercial flocks or a few birds in a backyard flock) to follow strict biosecurity measures. The purpose of these measures is to limit the spread of Avian Influenza.
Avian influenza infection can survive in the environment for several weeks. It is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks:
Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry
Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources
Feed and water their birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds
Minimise movement into and out of bird enclosures
Cleanse and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy
Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas
Keep free ranging birds within fenced areas, and ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off (except in specific circumstances, e.g. zoo birds)
Register your flock
You are legally required to register your flock if you keep more than 50 birds. You can help prevent the spread of disease and protect the national poultry flock by registering any size flocks (however small) on the GOV.UK Poultry Register.
Complete the AIPZ self-assessment checklist to ensure you are compliant with the required measures and keep a copy for inspection if requested by officers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency or Trading Standards.
Be aware of avian flu symptoms
Avian influenza symptoms include:
Sudden increase in the death of birds
Loss of appetite
Respiratory distress such as gasping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling and rattling
Lethargy and depression
Drooping of wings and/or dragging legs
If you are concerned about signs of disease in your birds, you must seek prompt advice from your vet.
If you suspect avian influenza, you must report it immediately by calling Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.
Poultry keepers and members of the public must be vigilant
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).
The Food Standards Agency has said on the basis of the current scientific evidence, avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs are safe to eat.