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THE UK’S chief ve­teri­nary of­fi­cers are en­cour­ag­ing all poul­try keep­ers to take ac­tion now to re­duce the risk of avian in­fluenza (AI) over the winter.

They have rec­om­mended sim­ple mea­sures that all bird keep­ers, whether they are run­ning a large com­mer­cial farm, keep­ing a few birds in their back garden or rear­ing game birds, should take to pro­tect their flocks over the winter months. These in­clude: keep­ing the area where birds live clean and tidy, con­trol­ling rats and mice and reg­u­larly dis­in­fect­ing any hard sur­faces; clean­ing footwear be­fore and after vis­its; plac­ing birds’ feed and wa­ter in fully en­closed areas that are pro­tected from wild birds and re­mov­ing any spilled feed reg­u­larly; erect­ing fenc­ing around out­door areas where birds are al­lowed and lim­it­ing their ac­cess to ponds or areas vis­ited by wild wa­ter­fowl. Where pos­si­ble, they are also ad­vis­ing avoid­ing keep­ing ducks and geese with other poul­try species.

Since June 2017, there have been no de­tec­tions of AI in poul­try or kept birds in the UK and the UK has re­tained its OIE coun­try free­dom sta­tus since Septem­ber 2017.

A joint state­ment by all four chief ve­teri­nary of­fi­cers ran: “Avian flu con­tin­ues to cir­cu­late in many parts of the world and with the colder months upon us the risk of dis­ease from mi­grat­ing birds is in­creas­ing. It is crit­i­cal that all keep­ers of poul­try, in­clud­ing game birds and pet birds, act now to re­duce the risk of trans­mis­sion of avian flu to their flocks. Good biose­cu­rity should be main­tained at all times, in­clud­ing reg­u­larly clean­ing and dis­in­fect­ing the area where you keep birds and sep­a­rat­ing them from wild birds wher­ever pos­si­ble.

“Keep­ers should also en­sure that they regis­ter on the Great Bri­tain Poul­try Regis­ter [https://www.gov.uk/ gov­ern­ment/pub­li­ca­tions/poul­try­in­clud­ing-game-birds-reg­is­tra­tion-rule­sand-forms] and we are pleased that new forms are now in place to sim­plify this process. Keep­ers in North­ern Ire­land must regis­ter their birds on the DAERA Bird Regis­ter. This can now be com­pleted and sub­mit­ted on-line.”

Poul­try keep­ers in Eng­land, Wales and Scot­land can sign up to a free APHA ser­vice (http://an­i­mal­health.sys­temmes­sage.co.uk/AH_­sub­scribe_in­dex. php) to re­ceive text or email alerts about any out­breaks of bird flu in the UK. In North­ern Ire­land, all bird keep­ers are en­cour­aged to sub­scribe to a free text alert ser­vice (https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/ar­ti­cles/avian-in­fluenza-ai) by tex­ting BIRDS to 67300.

The UK’s chief ve­teri­nary of­fi­cers have issued sim­ple rec­om­men­da­tions to bird keep­ers to help cut the risks

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