In August 2022 the UK’s Chief Veterinary Office, Professor Christine Middlemiss, appealed to bird keepers to maintain enhanced biosecurity measures after an avian influenza outbreak. Restrictions lifted on 16th August, but Professor Middlemiss is keen to ensure that people remain vigilant.
In November 2021 authorities implemented an avian influenza prevention zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain. This required bird keepers, from keepers of poultry or pets to commercial flocks, to take “additional biosecurity precautions”. Further restrictions enforced this with a requirement to keep birds housed from November 2021 to May 2022.
The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) warned of the UK’s largest ever flu outbreak. Over 130 cases have been confirmed since October 2021. Professor Middlemiss emphasised that although the restrictions had been lifted, bird keepers should continue to follow “enhanced measures”.
“Now we are in the summer months and experiencing higher temperatures, the risk to poultry has now been reduced…the time is right to lift the [AIPZ].”
She thanked all bird keepers for their “hard work” in upholding “high biosecurity standards for many months”. However, she reminded keepers of “localised areas of risk”. Furthermore, she insisted that it is “vital that everyone keeps biosecurity and cleanliness at the forefront of their minds to keep their flocks safe”. If members of the public or keepers suspect disease they are advised to contact the Defra helpline.
As of 2021 the government continues to advise against vaccination of “poultry and most captive birds”.
“Vaccination is not a routine control measure and is a practice restricted by legislation.”
Among the reasons stated against vaccination, the government cites transmission of avian influenza from vaccinated birds. Additionally, influenza viruses “mutate rapidly, which could render a vaccine less useful”. Handling and welfare implications for the birds are also suggested difficulties.
The government states that “early reporting, rapid action, biosecurity, culling, and surveillance remain the most effective” means of prevention.
To participate in discussions on avian influenza at the World Vaccine Congress in Europe 2022, click here for tickets.