Currently there is an ongoing epidemic outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Europe and the UK. The disease is highly contagious and can infect a range of bird species. Domestic poultry such as Chickens and Turkeys are extremely susceptible. Any wild bird can however contract it but the main reservoir of the virus circulates in migratory waterfowl species such as ducks. Infection symptoms vary between the type of bird affected but tend to be sudden and across a large proportion of the coop. Unresponsive, slow and depressed birds, potentially with discoloured or swollen heads and sinuses. Sudden neurological signs such as twisted necks and stargazing or falling over can also occur. Often, especially in chickens, the animals are simply found dead or dying. Any suspicion of AI in domestic birds needs to be reported to APHA (03000 200 301). And any wild birds that are found dead can be reported through the gov.uk website (https://report-dead-wild-birds.service.gov.uk/anon/services/defra/report-a-dead-bird-2)
Due to the often devastating effect in domestic poultry, preventing infection by observing diligent biosecurity is your best option to protect your flocks and coops.
- Prevent wild birds access to food and water sources.
- Reduce spillage of food as this invites birds in.
- Protect your birds from droppings, this can be both directly from overflying birds AND carried in on your boots/wellies. Install a suitable boot dip with disinfectant (http://disinfectants.defra.gov.uk/DisinfectantsExternal/Default.aspx?Module=ApprovalsList_SI)
- Providing a solid roof will help to protect against aerial droppings.
- If you are in a current AI ‘prevention’ or ‘restriction’ zone additional and mandatory requirements will apply which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu-cases-and-disease-control-zones-in-england
- Although very rare transmission into mammals such as humans can occur and great care must therefore be taken when handling suspicious birds and their droppings in the forms of suitable PPE.