Poultry owners told to keep birds inside after avian flu warning

Poultry keepers have been put on alert over a strain of bird flu.

Suffolk and Essex poultry owners will need to keep birds inside from Monday (file photo) - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Poultry owners in Suffolk and Essex have been told they will need to keep birds inside from next week to prevent the spread of avian flu.

From Monday, it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their animals indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures.

Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months can carry the disease, potentially leading to cases in poultry and other captive birds on farms and in homes.

The measures come as a number of cases of bird flu have been identified across the country — including two outbreaks at two Essex farms this month.

Public health leaders have said the risk to human health from avian flu is very low and food standards bodies advise that the disease poses a very low food safety risk.

In a joint statement, the UK’s four Chief Veterinary Officers said: "We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.

"Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday, November 29 onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

"We have not taken this decision lightly, taking this action now is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease."

Earlier in November, an isolated outbreak of bird flu was confirmed at an animal sanctuary in Kirby Cross, near Frinton-on-Sea.

Most Read

A secon outbreak was then identified about 35 miles away at a farm in North Fambridge, Maldon.

On both occasions, a 3km exclusion zone was enforced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs around the farms in a bid to contain the outbreaks.

Last December, about 100,000 Gressingham ducks culled at four linked farms near Watton in Norfolk after an outbreak of bird flu.