Whilst humans battle Coronavirus, the UK’s bird population is experiencing its biggest ever outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu), with cases found in wild and captive birds. Tens of thousands of birds have been culled already, and a UK-wide bird lockdown is in place. Catherine Corden-Parry summarises the latest protection measures and shares the bird flu symptoms to look out for.
Chief Veterinary Officers for Scotland, England, and Wales have brought in measures to help protect poultry and captive birds against bird flu:
Avian Influenza Prevention Zones (AIPZ) have been declared in England, <https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu> Scotland, <https://www.gov.scot/publications/avian-influenza-bird-flu/> Wales, <https://gov.wales/avian-influenza> and Northern Ireland. <https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/avian-influenza-ai> Bird gatherings, markets, and shows are not permitted in an AIPZ.
Housing measures stipulate that all bird keepers are required by law to take a range of biosecurity precautions, and birds must be housed indoors (except in very specific circumstances) or kept separate from wild birds.
Poultry keepers and pet owners of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, quail, partridges, pheasants and pigeons, should register their birds (50+ is a legal requirement) so they can be notified of a local outbreak. Signs of bird flu must be reported asap. How to register and report > <https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu>
Signs & symptoms of bird flu: Type 1 - Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Clinical signs can vary between bird species and include:
Blue discolouration of neck & throat
Loss of appetite
Respiratory distress (gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling)
Fewer eggs laid
Type 2 - Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds won’t always show clear signs of infection. If you notice any potential bird flu symptoms, you can ask Catherine or any of our vets for advice. Ask us about bird flu symptoms <Link to contact>
Coronavirus lockdown and social distancing measures have also been helping to control the bird flu outbreak. People aren’t visiting neighbouring farms and smallholdings, or friends and family with pet birds, nor are they going to poultry shows. Less ‘people movement’ means less cases of this highly pathogenic virus being spread via shoes, clothing, car tyres and other inanimate objects.
Bird flu can also affect humans and other mammals through close contact with infected birds or their droppings, but not by eating fully cooked chicken and other poultry products. It’s important to remember that the risk to humans is low.