Poultry producers urged to remain vigilant on AI

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has told poultry farmers and producers that they must be on the look-out of any signs of avian influenza (AI) and to report symptoms to their vet or the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA). 

Meat Trades Journal’s sister site, GlobalMeatNews, recently reported that the H5N8 strain has found its way back into Europe. Cases of the disease in wild birds and poultry have been reported in Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Croatia.

The NFU has said that this reinforces the importance of British producers maintaining high standards of farm hygiene and biosecurity, as well as avoiding contact with wild birds.

Just recently, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) updated the likelihood of the disease spreading to British shores as ‘medium’. The government body encouraged any producer that discovered dead wild waterfowl (such as swans, geese or ducks), gulls or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location to report them to the Defra helpline at 03459 33 55 77.

“Farmers take farm hygiene very seriously – and the upcoming Poultry Health and Welfare Group AI roadshows give poultry producers from across the UK the opportunity to safeguard their businesses and look at contingency planning,” said NFU chief poultry adviser Gary Ford.

“It is important to stress that this is a disease in birds and that there is no risk to human health and the NFU has taken the lead in ensuring the poultry industry is knowledgeable on AI and how it can impact farm businesses.”

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, told Meat Trades Journal that even one case of AI in Britain could have a severe impact. "As we see avian influenza moving towards the UK it is ever more important that farmers and businesses maintain vigilance to guard against infection, as one incident could have far reaching implications for the entire poultry industry," he said.

"We are confident that the preparations made by producers and the government give us the best opportunity for monitoring the situation and reacting appropriately."

Defra’s advice on preventing avian flu
•    Clean and disinfect protective clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and use disposable, protective clothing where possible
•    Reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry is kept to minimise the risk of contamination from manure, slurry or other products that could carry the disease
•    Thoroughly clean and disinfect poultry houses at the end of a cycle
•    Keep the right concentration of disinfectant fresh, with cleaning materials ready wherever people should use it, such as the entrances to farms and before entering poultry housing or enclosures
•    Minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and wild birds

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