The Scottish Government has declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone requiring that all poultry and captive birds must be kept indoors, or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.
This precautionary step has been taken in response to multiple reports of a strain of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 causing high mortality in wild birds in mainland Europe, mostly affecting waterfowl. There have been no cases of this strain detected in the UK.
The Prevention Zone applies to all of Scotland and will remain in place for 30 days. A Zone has also been declared in England.
Within the Zone bird keepers are legally obliged to take all practicable steps to ensure that poultry and other captive birds kept separate from wild birds - in most cases this will be by keeping birds housed.
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing said:“We have declared a 30-day Prevention Zone as a precautionary measure to protect Scotland’s valuable poultry industry, particularly in the weeks before Christmas. It is important to stress that there has been no cases of this strain detected in the UK.
“The Scottish Government and its partners continue to monitor the situation in Europe closely and stand ready to respond to any suspicion of disease in Scotland. Any bird keepers who have concerns should immediately seek veterinary advice.”
Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said:“The risk of an HPAI incursion into poultry in the UK remains at ‘low, but heightened’, although for wild birds the risk has been raised to ‘medium’. It is normal to see these viruses circulating among wild bird populations at this time of year, however the strain seen in Europe appears to be particularly virulent which is a cause for some concern.
“Keeping birds indoors helps to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus, provided that poultry keepers maintain good biosecurity on their premises and remain vigilant for any signs of disease.
“Consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry given the expert advice about food safety and human health.”
Dr Jim McMenamin of Health Protection Scotland said:“Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has advised that the threat to public health from this strain of avian influenza H5N8 is very low. HPS, and the other health protection teams across the UK will continue to monitor the situation in conjunction with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).”
Ian McWatt, Director of Operations at Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said:“At present there is no public health risk from the consumption of eggs or poultry in relation to avian influenza. In order to keep birds safe from the virus, FSS would like to reiterate that extra caution should be taken during this period. FSS will continue to work with SG and other partners and we will be ready to respond quickly should the situation change.”
Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must report it to their local Animal Plant & Health Agency office. Contact details can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/about-us/contact-us/field-services/
More information about Avian Influenza - including biosecurity guidance - is available from the Scottish Government website http://www.gov.scot/avianinfluenza
The last UK Avian Influenza outbreak was Low Pathogenic H5N1 in Dunfermline, January 2016.
As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where any ‘at risk’ bird species (wildfowl or gulls), or five or more birds of any other species, are found dead in the same location and at the same time.