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Health / Avian flu warning issued to poultry and bird owners

POULTRY and bird owners in Shetland are being asked to take steps to reduce the risk of avian flu, following news that Scotland has been declared an avian influenza prevention zone.

In the last fortnight, there have been outbreaks of avian influenza in parts of England, affecting poultry or other captive birds.

There have been other outbreaks in Europe, all linked to a highly pathogenic strain of H5N8 influenza virus, which causes a high level of mortality in birds.

On Wednesday the Scottish Government put in place an avian influenza prevention zone across the whole of Scotland, following similar steps taken in England and Wales.  

Anyone who keeps birds, whether chickens, ducks, or other domestic birds, must strengthen their biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of avian influenza.

The main threat is from wild birds which can arrive from elsewhere and introduce disease.

The steps that bird owners can take include:

  • Keeping the area where birds live clean and tidy, controlling rats and mice and regularly disinfecting any hard surfaces;
  • Cleaning footwear before and after visits;
  • Placing birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and removing any spilled feed regularly;
  • Where possible, avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species.

Shetland Islands Council’s environmental health team leader David Robertson said: “There are significant populations of wild birds such as geese and other wildfowl in Shetland and the risk of avian flu arriving here is a real one.

“Anyone who keeps domestic poultry, even in small numbers, should act now to reduce the risk of transmission of avian flu to their birds. This includes keeping them separate from wild birds wherever possible and taking some simple biosecurity steps such as regular cleaning and disinfection.”

Keepers should discuss their biosecurity arrangements with their local vet or contact the nearest Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire by telephone on 03000 600 708 or at APHA.Scotland@apha.gsi.gov.uk.

Avian influenza is a notifiable animal disease. Anyone finding birds that they suspect of having died of avian influenza must report this immediately to APHA.

More biosecurity advice and regular updates on the latest situation are available on the Scottish Governments avian flu website.

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