Poultry keepers have been warned an outbreak of Newcastle Disease (ND) is likely to occur following cases of the disease across the border.
Smallholders and commercial poultry keepers in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have been hit by the disease – the only one notifiable in the UK other than avian influenza (AI) – with UK risk having increased from low to medium by the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
The National Gamekeepers’ Association said control measures were much the same as those used for AI and could ‘therefore lead to movement restrictions and potential business disruption’.
A spokesman said: “All bird keepers, including gamebird keepers, are being urged by Government to remain vigilant and keep an eye on their birds for the clinical signs of Newcastle Disease.
“Continuing to maintain best practice biosecurity is also crucial.”
The disease is usually absent in the UK but can occur every few years.
Defra said the strain appeared to be transmissible even in vaccinated birds, with mortality rates in Belgium at about 10 to 20 per cent of birds in affected flocks.
The strain was ‘particularly virulent’ and had not recently been seen in north western Europe, it added.
It follows the government’s decision on May 25 to relax poultry restrictions after four months of bird flu prevention zones.
Christine Middlemiss, UK Chief Veterinary Officer, said: “The APHA experts have advised that the risk of disease has risen to ‘medium’ following reports of Newcastle Disease in mainland Europe.
“I urge all poultry keepers - whether of commercial, smallholder flocks or specialist breeds or pet chickens - to remain vigilant to the clinical signs of this disease, and urge them to put in place strong biosecurity measures to ensure the health and welfare of their birds.”
Affected birds may show some of the following signs:
Disease may be severe resulting in dramatic mortality in a large proportion of birds. Or, it may have a lesser affect, with breathing problems and lower egg production being the only detectable clinical signs.
Defra has also given the following advice to gamebird keepers and vets: