The Government chief vet has today (September 13) announced the UK is officially free from Avian Influenza (AI).
Defra chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said the UK had met international requirements to declare itself free from the disease, despite ongoing circulation in Europe.
He urged poultry keepers to remain on standby and avoid complacence with the free status as bird flu could likely return from migratory birds as winter approaches – a similar event to the return of the disease last December after AI-free status was declared in April.
Mr Gibbens said: “Declaring the UK free from avian flu is an important milestone that will help our efforts to re-open export markets.
“The past nine months have been very challenging for all those who keep poultry, and I would like to thank everyone for their efforts in helping us contain the disease to a handful of premises.
“However, I urge all keepers to be vigilant – there is a constant risk of avian flu from wild birds and this is likely to increase as winter approaches, temperatures fall, and migratory birds arrive in the UK.
“All poultry keepers should take steps to reduce the risk to their birds, such as cleaning footwear, feeding birds indoors, and minimising contact with wild birds. Building these simple actions into routines now can help prepare for any future outbreaks.”
Declaring the UK free from AI means trade discussions on UK poultry and poultry products can restart with existing and potential new trading partners.
Between December 2016 and June 2017, 13 cases of AI were confirmed in kept poultry in the UK.
In all cases, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) put movement restrictions in place to limit the spread of disease and carried out thorough investigations into the source and possible spread of infection.
Scottish Government Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas added: “This will be welcome news for the Scottish avian industry, especially businesses which trade internationally. But this achievement does not mean that we can be complacent; the risk of avian influenza has not disappeared.
“It is essential that bird keepers maintain effective biosecurity year-round, as there is a constant risk of avian influenza from wild birds. This risk is likely to increase as winter approaches, so I would strongly urge all bird keepers to ensure that they are not only maintaining good levels of biosecurity, but have developed or updated a contingency plan for their premises or business.”