Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is a highly contagious disease that primarily affects birds and we are in the worst outbreak of it since records began. It is devastating flocks across the UK with a mortality rate of up to 99% in chickens, and has led to millions of deaths in poultry. Currently, there is no cure.
It’s impacting bird keepers from backyard flock owners to commercial poultry producers. A disease outbreak can devastate a flock, negatively impacting owners both economically and emotionally.
In an effort to slow the spread in the UK, a number of housing orders were imposed in late 2022, requiring all bird owners to keep their birds housed for the foreseeable future. However, the disease has been mutating and the H5N1 strain is still spreading across the country.
When an outbreak is suspected, the Government can introduce a series of preventative measures. They are designed to contain any outbreak and help save as many poultry as possible. There are a number of zones that can be introduced depending on the level of the outbreak.
What are the zones during an outbreak?
A Suspected Premises is a property such as a farm, is placed under restrictions while a disease investigation is carried out. While under investigation, you will not be able to move birds or eggs.
- You will require a licence to bring a feed truck in.
- You will require a licence for your staff and anyone who lives within the farm to enter and leave.
- It will take less than 48 hours to get a positive result.
- It can take six to 10 days to get a negative result.
You will be under restriction until confirmation, whether negative or positive, is achieved.
A farm where avian influenza is confirmed by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) can be placed under a prevention zone.
The different zones are:
Protection Zone (PZ)
This is an area with a radius of at least 3 kilometres surrounding an Infected Premises. A Protection Zone will remain in place for a minimum of 21 days after the Infected Premises has completed its preliminary cleansing and disinfection.
The PZ will eventually merge with the Surveillance Zone, provided that no further infected premises are declared.
Many of the measures listed in this protocol will already be adopted into your general procedures. However, it is important that procedures are carried out with precision and farm biosecurity is heightened to reduce the risk of infection to your premises. Protocols should be strictly maintained.
Captive Bird (Monitoring) Zone (CPZ)
An area with a radius of at least 3 kilometres surrounding an Infected Premises. A Captive Bird Zone could remain in place for less time than the Protection Zone, subject to the Secretary of State being satisfied that applying less stringent measures would not endanger disease control.
A risk assessment will be carried out by the Secretary of State (APHA) pending any decision to reduce or increase the radius of the zone.
Surveillance Zone (SZ)
A Surveillance Zone has a 10 kilometre radius surrounding an Infected Premises. Records of all visitors must be kept and movements of poultry on or off the premises is restricted unless licenced.
Licence conditions regarding movement of animals and by-products will differ depending on the outbreak, the Veterinary Inspector and the strain of the avian influenza virus detected.
Under the legislation, the release of game birds is prohibited. It is highly recommended that any poultry keepers avoid attending any shoots where the risk of contamination or disease transmission from other captive bird owners and wild birds is significantly increased to overly high levels.
If you are in a Surveillance Zone, farm specific protocols need to be strictly maintained.
Restricted Zone (RZ)
A Restricted Zone is either centred on the outbreak point or is adjacent to the Surveillance Zone or to another restricted zone. Its size is determined by the Secretary of State.
It may vary depending on geographical features, location, or proximity to other poultry or captive bird premises.
What to do if you’re in a Special Category Premises
Special Category Premises follow different rules when infected with avian influenza. The rules state that you must collect and maintain evidence that you comply with one of the categories.
The following are considered Special Category Premises:
- Non-commercial premises, i.e., premises where poultry or other captive birds are kept by their owners for their consumption or as pets, for example, private backyards or small holdings
- Pet shops
- Wildlife parks
- Fenced areas where poultry or other captive birds are kept for scientific purposes or purposes related to the conservation of endangered species.
- Premises or parts of premises where only officially registered rare breeds of poultry or other captive birds are kept.
- Officially registered rare breeds of poultry or other captive birds recognised by the Secretary of State as having higher conservation value or belonging to a species of a rare breed (as determined by the UK Farm Genetic Resources Committee) and published in the UK Breeds at Risk list by the Secretary of State.
You can’t afford for biosecurity to be an afterthought
The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss has called for farmers to tighten their defences against bird flu and to review their biosecurity procedures. She stated “Many poultry keepers have excellent biosecurity standards but the number of cases we are seeing suggests that not enough is being done to keep bird flu out.” She stressed that “Implementing scrupulous biosecurity remains absolutely critical.”
The need for the most stringent biosecurity measures has never been higher
Prevention is the only protection. Now more than ever stringent biosecurity measures are needed to slow and stop the spread of this deadly disease. An outbreak could devastate your flock or backyard pets, impacting you economically and emotionally.
Livetec are here to support UK bird keepers
Livetec are the industry leaders in biosecurity. We create bespoke plans that are designed to mitigate the risk of infection and protect the welfare of your flock and your farm business. Our plans encompass best practices, unique evidence based thinking and the latest legislation.
The National Outbreak Plan helps protect your flock, your farm and your finances.
The National Outbreak Plan is a wealth of critical information on how to prevent disease incursions and what you are required to do by law should one occur. The National Outbreak Plan is the first step to contingency planning, helping you prepare for the worst, should it happen.
In it you’ll find all the information you need to prevent an incursion. It clearly explains all of the zones and what you are legally obliged to do in the event of an outbreak, helping you navigate all of the legislation. It helps protect you, your flock, your finances and your future.
- A how-to guide for disease declaration
- Information reporting when zones are implemented
- Explanation of movement restrictions
- Movement licensing and their conditions of use
- Zone definitions and their requirements
- How to deal with the media
- Farming related support services and mental health planning
- A guide on how to change or update your CPH number
- Updates of the Governments exotic diseases control and AI policy
- An acronym glossary to quickly define key terms
Expert advice from the industry experts
In the constant battle against disease, Livetec also offers a unique Biosecurity Advisory Service, backed by years of on-farm experience and evidence based research. With this robust service, one of our experts conducts an on-site review of your day-to-day operations and advises you on implementing the most effective biosecurity measures. Helping you prepare for whatever the future may bring.
In such uncertain times, Livetec is working closely with bird keepers to protect flocks, livelihoods and reputations.
To find out more about how our biosecurity services and the National Outbreak Plan can help you, click here.