“It’s essential that bird keepers comply with the biosecurity requirements set out in the declaration, and in further guidance available on the Scottish Government website…”
The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone covering Scotland will be extended until at least 30 April, the Scottish Government has confirmed.
The renewed zone applies to all poultry and captive birds and comes into effect on 28 February 2017. It permits keepers in all areas of Scotland to let their birds outside provided that they have enhanced biosecurity in place, and replaces the zone first declared on 6 December 2016.
A GB-wide ban on poultry shows and gatherings also remains in force.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: “Today’s declaration will be welcome news for many keepers eager to let their birds outdoors again. However, the risk from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 remains, with another confirmed case in domestic birds in England as recently as last week.
“It is essential that bird keepers comply with the biosecurity requirements set out in the declaration, and in further guidance available on the Scottish Government website.
“We have listened carefully to key industry stakeholders and are clear that allowing birds outside on 28 February, under enhanced biosecurity, provides the right balance between reducing disease risk and minimising the economic impact on Scotland’s vital free range poultry industry.”
Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “I am writing to all Scottish bird keepers registered on the GB Poultry Keeper database to make them aware of the changing requirements within the AI Prevention Zone, and to provide a checklist of steps to take before letting their birds outside on 28 February.
“Bird keepers will still have the option to house their flock, and for many this will continue to be the most practical way to comply with the requirements of the zone and minimise the risk of infection. However, under EU law, products from housed birds can no longer be marketed as ‘free range’ after 28 February.
“Expert advice remains that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry and the threat to public health from the virus is very low.”
The biosecurity measures required in the zone are set out in the text of the declaration, as well as further guidance.
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. Contact details can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/about-us/contact-us/field-services/
More information about Avian Influenza – including biosecurity guidance – is available from the Scottish Government website www.gov.scot/avianinfluenza
The H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza has been circulating in Europe since October 2016. Nine cases in captive birds have been confirmed in UK, details can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu. The disease has also been found in wild birds across the UK. The last Avian Influenza outbreak in captive birds in Scotland was Low Pathogenic H5N1 in Dunfermline, January 2016.
The AI Prevention Zone was first declared on 6 December 2016 and then renewed from 6 January 2017. The current zone expires at 00.01 on 28 February 2017, when the zone declared today (22 February) will come into effect.
Defra and the Welsh Government have announced that the Prevention Zones in England and Wales will also remain in place until the end of April. In England Defra have indicated their intention to adopt a more targeted approach, with continued housing or range netting required in ‘higher risk areas’.
As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where any ‘at risk’ bird species (wildfowl or gulls), birds of prey or five or more birds of any other species, are found dead in the same location and at the same time.
In the United Kingdom, members of the public are asked to report these incidents to Defra’s national helpline (email email@example.com or telephone 03459 335577, Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm).
The GB Poultry Keeper database is maintained by the Animal Plant & Health Agency on behalf of Scottish Government, Defra and Welsh Government www.gov.uk/guidance/poultry-registration