On 9 February, the Scottish Rural Economy Secretary confirmed that an avian influenza prevention zone for all poultry and captive birds would remain in force until the end of April.
While the current prevention zone remains in place until 28 February, the requirements of the zone will be amended after that point, meaning that keepers will have the option of letting their birds outside, provided that they put in place enhanced biosecurity to minimise the risk of infection from wild birds. Measures in the renewed zone will continue to apply across all of Scotland, with no targeting of specific areas. Until 28 February all poultry and captive bird keepers in Scotland must continue to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate practical steps to keep them separate from wild birds. A GB-wide ban on poultry shows and gatherings also remains in force. While there have been no cases confirmed in domestic poultry or captive birds in Scotland, there have been several cases in England and Wales.
Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer has also noted that the risk level from highly pathogenic avian influenza remains at ‘high’ for wild birds, and ‘low to medium’ for domestic birds. It was therefore essential that keepers continued to ensure that their birds are protected from infection by practising the highest levels of biosecurity.
Keepers should start to think about steps they can take now to provide the best biosecurity that they can to protect birds let out on 28 February. This could include keeping your range clear of wild birds, and where possible decontaminating the range. Arrangements should also be discussed with keepers’ private vets, who would be best placed to provide specific practical advice on reducing the risk of infection. Expert advice remained that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry and the threat to public health from the virus is very low.
Biosecurity steps include:
- making sure that birds’ feed and water can’t be accessed by wild birds;
- avoiding transfer of contamination between premises by cleansing and disinfecting equipment, vehicles and footwear;
- reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept;
- implementing effective vermin control around buildings where poultry or captive birds are kept;
- providing wash facilities or dips containing approved disinfectant (at the right concentration) at key points such as farm entrances and entrances to bird houses.
Avian influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must report it to their local Animal Plant & Health Agency office (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/animal-and-plant-health-agency/...). More information about avian influenza - including biosecurity guidance - is available from the Scottish Government website http://www.gov.scot/avianinfluenza. [Source: Scottish Government News Release, 9 February 2017. http://news.gov.scot/news/avian-influenza-5]