UK moves to contain AI spread

by Erica Shaffer
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LONDON – A poultry farm near Redgrave in the district of mid-Suffolk was placed under a temporary avian influenza control zone of 10km after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the H5N8 virus, the Dept. for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) reported Feb. 13.

The farm contains an estimated 23,000 birds which will be culled. A number of birds already have died, the agency said. “Further investigations continue into the nature of the virus detected and to establish the possible source of the infection,” Defra said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, announced a new avian influenza prevention zone that will go into force from Feb. 28 until April 30 in Wales. A current prevention zone is set to expire by the end of February.

The new prevention zone requires poultry farms to complete a self-assessment of biosecurity measures in place on their farms. The goal of the prevention zone is to prevent interactions between domestic flocks and wild birds. Prevention measures may include keeping birds housed or permitting controlled access to outside areas with the introduction of additional risk mitigation measures.

“My decision to put in place a new Avian Influenza Prevention Zone until 30 April is based on sound expert and industry advice,” Griffiths said in a statement. “The risk of infection from wild birds is unlikely to decrease in the coming weeks. The changes I am announcing today are proportionate and place the onus on the keeper to select the best option for their circumstances to protect their birds. They must, however, ensure compliance with the additional risk mitigation measures.”

Under the current prevention zone, poultry farmers and owners of captive birds must keep their birds indoors, take steps to prevent contact with wild birds and enhance biosecurity measures on their premises. The zone was implemented following a number of confirmed cases of avian influenza across the United Kingdom, including in a backyard flock of chicken and ducks near Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire, Wales.

“Keepers of poultry and other captive birds must remain vigilant for signs of disease,” Christianne Glossop, chief veterinary officer for Wales, said in a statement. “Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease, and any suspicion should be reported immediately to the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Keepers should practice the highest levels of biosecurity if they are to minimize the risk of infection.

“I continue to strongly encourage all poultry keepers, even those with fewer than 50 birds, to provide their details to the Poultry Register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately, via email or text update, in an avian disease outbreak enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity,” Glossop added.

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