Housing orders for Northern Ireland and Wales have been announced, following a decision made by the Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Despite having just one case confirmed on a captive bird premises this year, Northern Ireland has had 21 confirmed wild bird cases, and due to the rise in the amount of cases across the rest of the UK, will implement their housing measures as of midday on 28th November.
Wales has had three confirmed cases on commercial poultry premises since the beginning of the 2022 to 2023 season, which started at the beginning of October. Gavin Watkins, Interim Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, said “The latest data suggest a westward spread of avian influenza to Wales in the coming months, and increased risk of birds being infected outside, through increased viral survival times and a possible further spread in the range of wild birds carrying the virus”. The measures for Wales will come into effect from Friday 2nd December.
Avian influenza H5N1 has been affecting a wide variety of premises and wild birds across the country, proving to be much more virulent than other strains of the disease. Since the first case of H5N1 in the UK, which was found on a premises in October 2021, over 260 cases have been confirmed, making this the worst outbreak of avian influenza on record.
These mandatory housing measures mean that poultry keepers are legally required to keep their birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures. These measures follow a housing order that was implemented for Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex, which became effective on the 12th October, and a regional housing order for England, which became effective as of the 7th November.
In a statement, Robert Huey, the Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland said “In order to protect the national flock, we must try to avoid a repeat of last year, which was NI’s worst ever outbreak of avian flu and resulted in the cull of approximately 80,000 birds. This is devastating for the owners and has the potential to savage our £450 million poultry industry.
“Avian flu is a cunning and determined virus and will exploit any and all gaps in your biosecurity, which is the best defence you have against an outbreak. No one is safe from an incursion and cases in NI will increase significantly over the coming months unless we all take immediate action now.
“Anyone who keeps birds and poultry, not just those in the commercial sector, will now have a legal obligation to adhere to the housing order requirements, which are there to protect your flock. Avian flu will wipe it out in a matter of days and the costly and emotional task of culling and disposal, is something you will want to avoid. An incursion into a flock, or even a small captive bird holding, can have significant consequences not just for the owner but for wider industry and our ability to trade”
Measures for Scotland are yet to be announced.
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