Bird flu has been detected in dead wild birds in Dorset and Warwickshire, England, with more cases expected over the coming weeks. The Dorset findings were the first confirmed cases of H5N6 in the UK this winter, and tests have shown it is closely related to the H5N6 strain that has been circulating in wild birds across Europe in recent months.
This is different to the H5N6 strain which affected people in China last year and HPS has assessed the risk to public health as very low. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has also offered reassurance that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for consumers.
In response to the latest findings, Defra has introduced an England-wide avian influenza prevention zone which will require poultry keepers to introduce additional biosecurity measures, though this does not currently include a requirement for mandatory housing of poultry.
There are no restrictions on Scottish bird keepers at present and the Scottish Government will continue to monitor the situation across the UK and the rest of Europe, carefully. While findings in wild birds are not unexpected for the time of year, it is a timely reminder for all bird keepers to maintain good levels of biosecurity and to remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flock.
The risk level for an avian influenza incursion in Scotland remains at ‘medium’ for wild birds and ‘low’ for domestic poultry and other captive birds, provided good biosecurity is in place. There are currently no restrictions on bird keepers in Scotland, and bird gatherings are permitted under licence. The current avian influenza prevention zone does not prevent bird keepers based in England from attending bird gatherings in Scotland.
The APHA Alerts Service provides a reliable source of updates. More information on the AI Prevention Zone currently in place in England is available on the UK Government website.
Source: Scottish Government Avian Influenza webpage, 22 January 2018