Bird flu, also known as avian influenza (AI), is classified as a notifiable disease by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
A notifiable disease in birds is classed as an animal disease that farmers, backyard flock owners and members of the public are legally obligated to report to APHA, even if they only suspect an animal may be affected.
Notifiable diseases are divided into two types, a disease that is already present in the UK is classed as endemic i.e Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) and the second, exotic, which is a disease that is not normally present in the UK, such as AI and rabies.
Bird flu thrives in wild bird populations, and unfortunately for farmers, they are asymptomatic, or only show mild symptoms. If a member of the public finds a dead bird, or multiple dead birds, they must not touch the bird and inform APHA of its location so it can be collected for testing.
Wild birds mixing with domesticated poultry, or even wild birds contaminating objects, water and feed on-farm are responsible for a significant number of AI outbreaks across the UK.
The two categories of avian influenza
There are two categories of AI, low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). HPAI is extremely dangerous to domestic poultry and exhibits a high mortality rate of up to 99%. LPAI, whilst less pathogenic, if not dealt with quickly, can mutate into HPAI. Some strains of LPAI do fall into the non notifiable category, but you will likely not be able to identify the strain without testing.
Avian influenza is a highly contagious disease, with this season proving to be the most devastating to date. Throughout the 2021 to 2022 season, AI has lasted significantly longer, implicated birds in the millions and has been declared endemic in both the wild bird population in the UK and in countries across Europe.
Following this season, APHA, Defra, along with the UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss have called for farmers to tighten their defences against AI and to review their biosecurity procedures.
What symptoms should you look out for?
Although no two birds exhibit the same range of symptoms, there are certain signs that can show in particular birds. As AI causes respiratory distress in poultry flocks, symptoms such as panting, coughing, sneezing, gurgling or rattling, diarrhoea, a loss of appetite or a marked drop in egg production can be signs of the disease. These symptoms however may be difficult to spot in a single bird, which is why monitoring flocks for signs can make it easier to identify.
With AI being spread quickly throughout the UK, it is paramount that farmers implement all of the necessary measures to avoid an outbreak on their farm. The only answer for bird flu is prevention. Without prevention, your farm can be left vulnerable to an outbreak, and should one occur, it will have a devastating impact.
Livetec are biosecurity experts
Biosecurity is more important than ever for UK farm businesses. The risk of an infection spreading quickly through a farm can have serious consequences for the animals, the business and the people involved.
Livetec have been helping UK farm businesses enhance their biosecurity procedures for over a decade, using our years of experience, research and continual product development.
Our team of experts can create bespoke biosecurity plans that encompass best practice, the latest legislation and new scientific thinking to enact the strongest line of defence for your farm. Our biosecurity services are designed to mitigate the risk of an infection, secure business continuity, protect your finances and protect the wellbeing of both farmers and the farm workers.
For more information on how we can help you improve your biosecurity procedures, contact us here.