AI latest for England, Scotland, Wales, NI

Avian influenza (AI) prevention zones in Scotland and Wales have been scrapped, although they remain in England until 15 May, and in Northern Ireland measures have been extended until 31 May.

The AI prevention zone covering Scotland and Wales was lifted on 30 April. The zone required bird-keepers in all areas of both countries to implement enhanced biosecurity measures before letting their birds outside, in order to reduce the risk of disease.

The ban on shows and gatherings of poultry, waterfowl and game birds in Scotland and Wales will remain in force until 15 May, when a new general licence will come into force.

“This will be welcome news for many keepers who have opted to keep their birds indoors to protect them from a seasonally increased risk from highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8,” said Scottish government cabinet secretary for rural economy Fergus Ewing.

“This has been a testing time for all of us, and I would like to thank all bird-keepers in Scotland for their co-operation and vigilance.”

Scotland’s chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: “It is a relief to see that the risk of HPAI H5N8 in Scotland has reduced, but this does not mean we should be complacent; the risk of avian influenza has not disappeared.”

She urged bird-keepers to maintain effective year-round biosecurity practices, and businesses to reassess contingency plans.

Lesley Griffiths, Welsh government cabinet secretary for environment and rural affairs, said: “Whilst I am sure this is welcome news, it is important to remember avian influenza remains a constant and real threat to our poultry and other captive birds.”

The NI Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs confirmed on 28 April that it would extend the AI prevention zone until 31 May.

The AI prevention zone will be lifted in England on 15 May. The decision follows the latest risk assessment from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

From 15 May, keepers will no longer be required by law to follow specific disease prevention measures to reduce the risk of bird flu infection from wild birds.

However, Defra urged them to continue to follow industry standard best practice on biosecurity. That includes minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures, cleaning footwear, keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy and feeding birds indoors.

A ban on poultry gatherings has been in place since 20 December to reduce the risk of infected poultry passing the virus to other birds. This ban will be lifted in England on 15 May 2017, meaning bird gatherings can then resume, subject to some additional identity and health checks and biosecurity measures.

The government continually reviews disease control measures in the light of new scientific evidence and veterinary advice.

Defra’s latest assessment is that overall risk in England has fallen from ‘medium’ to ‘low’, comparable with November 2016 risk levels, and should keep falling in warmer, drier spring weather.

The move to lift measures on 15 May, provided there are no further cases in poultry or findings of H5N8 in wild birds, was based on that assessment.

The most recent case of H5N8 in poultry in England was confirmed on 24 February 2017 and the last finding in wild birds was on 10 March 2017.

Public Health England has advised the risk to public health from AI is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for UK consumers.

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