16 August 2018 | Online since 2003

7 December 2016

DEFRA issues 30 day housing order

The 'Prevention Zone' applies to all of England and will remain in place for 30 days. A zone has also been declared in Scotland

The Government has imposed a housing order across England to try to protect poultry units from a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza hitting Europe.

High path H5N8 has been found in wild birds in Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

There are fears that migrating wildfowl could carry the virus to the United Kingdom, but up until now the Government had resisted appeals from the British poultry industry to order that free range birds be housed.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has now agreed to the industry's demands. It has ordered that keepers of poultry and other captive birds must keep their birds indoors or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. The order covers the whole of England and it will last for 30 days.

"While no cases of H5N8 avian flu have been found in the UK, and PHE advises the public health threat is low, we are closely monitoring the situation across Europe and have scaled up surveillance in response to the heightened risk," said chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens.

"As a precaution, and to allow time for poultry and captive bird keepers to put in place appropriate bio-security measures, we have declared a 30-day prevention zone to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds.

"Even when birds are housed a risk of infection remains so this must be coupled with good bio-security - for example disinfecting clothing and equipment, reducing poultry movement and minimising contact between poultry and wild birds," he said.

At a recent avian influenza roadshow event organised by the industry's Poultry Health and Welfare Group a representative of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) confirmed that the industry was seeking a precautionary housing order. However, the National Farmers Union's (NFU) chief poultry adviser, Gary Ford, said at the time that Defra had concerns about going ahead with such an order.

He said Defra felt there was a lack of clear evidence that housing free range birds was an effective disease mitigation measure. There was also a concern that housing birds used to ranging could have an impact on their health and welfare if they were no longer allowed to range.

Defra has now agreed to an order. In announcing the measure, it said that outbreaks of H5N8 had been confirmed in poultry and wild birds in several countries across Europe. No cases of H5N8 had been found in the UK and the housing order was a precautionary measure to help prevent potential infection from wild birds.

Public Health England (PHE) had advised that the threat to human health remained very low. Defra was continuing to monitor the situation closely and had increased its surveillance activity, while keepers were being urged to reinforce bio-security measures on their premises.


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