Government increases surveillance following avian influenza developments

Poultry keepers have been told to remain vigilant after a dead wild duck containing H5N8 bird flu was found in Carmarthenshire, Wales. 

The Welsh chief veterinary officer Christianne Glossop confirmed the findings in a single wigeon-type duck on Thursday, 22 December. The strain of the illness is the same one that was confirmed at a turkey farm in Lincolnshire on Friday, 16 December. Despite this, there has been no suggestion that the disease has spread from the Lincolnshire farm.

“This is the same strain we have seen in Lincolnshire and across Europe and this finding is not unexpected,” said the UK’s chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens.

“As this is a wild bird, it highlights the importance for poultry keepers to follow our clear advice on biosecurity and to comply fully with the prevention zone and temporary gatherings ban, announced earlier this month.”

Public Health England has reaffirmed that the risk to public health from the virus is very low, with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) making it clear that bird flu does not put food safety in the UK at risk. Poultry that is cooked thoroughly, including eggs, are safe to eat.

“It is important to reiterate Public Health England’s advice that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers,” said Gibbens.

“We are working with ornithological groups to further strengthen surveillance and will continue to consider any other proportionate measures available to us to limit the risk of spread to poultry.”

Following on from these findings, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has reduced the reporting thresholds for wild bird surveillance to single birds of specified species known to be infected in Europe.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the strain of bird flu, the government declared a Prevention Zone on 6 December and required all birds to be housed or otherwise separate from wild birds and a ban on certain types of poultry gatherings.

The implemented Prevention Zones require all keepers of poultry and other captive birds to keep their animals indoors, or to take appropriate steps to keep them separated and protected from wild birds.

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