Poultry keepers have been told to remain on stand-by after officials warned bird flu could become a ‘recurring threat’.
Despite a drop in active disease levels of the H5N8 strain throughout the UK, a recent outbreak of bird flu in Sweden has prompted renewed concerns it could circulate once again.
NFU Scotland poultry policy manager Penny Middleton said the extent of disease seen this winter had ‘been unprecedented but could be the start of a recurring pattern’.
She said: “There is work needed to be done this summer to assess how we handle such situations in the future and for keepers to consider carefully their contingency plans and resilience to face similar situations in the future.”
The termination dates for Avian Influenza prevention zone (AIPZ) measures:
The ban on poultry gatherings in England and Scotland will also be lifted on May 15.
Restrictions throughout the UK are expected to be relaxed by the end of the month but Defra chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens urged keepers to continue to follow best practice on biosecurity and remain vigilant for signs of the disease.
Officials confirmed the risk level would be kept under review but said the current risk should be assessed as low, meaning ‘outbreaks are rare but can occur occasionally’.
The statement added: “As time passes, with no further cases and despite the heightened exposure we can be more confident the risk has significantly reduced to approach levels prior to the current epizootic.”
It came as Northumberland County Show confirmed the cancellation of its poultry section due to ‘continuing restrictions’.
Chairman James Wardle said the decision followed ‘much thought and consideration’.
He added: “We are disappointed and saddened to not welcome the usual magnificent display of soft- and hard-feathered chickens and waterfowl, but we hope visitors will enjoy the egg show which will still be taking place.”
Tom Forgrave, Ulster Farmers’ Union chairman, supported the decision by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to extend its prevention zone until May 31.
He added: “The priority for bird keepers is the safety of their flock and they will continue to act responsibly in order to protect their birds.”