The chief veterinary officer (CVO) has announced the UK has met international requirements to declare itself from Avian Influenza (AI) H5N3 but urged poultry keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease.
In 2017, the UK was declared free of AI but a low pathogenic strain disease returned in December 2019, where a single case of the H5N3 strain was confirmed at a commercial chicken farm in Suffolk.
CVO Christine Middlemiss said the status would help efforts to re-open export markets.
She said there was a ’constant risk’ of AI from wild birds and this will increase later in the year when winter approaches, temperatures fall, and migratory birds arrive in the UK.
“All poultry keepers should take steps to reduce the risk to their birds by maintaining good robust biosecurity at all times, such as cleaning footwear, feeding birds indoors, and minimising contact with wild birds," she added.
NFU poultry board chairman, Thomas Wornham, said: “It is excellent news that the UK has regained its avian influenza disease-free status and is testament to the poultry farmers across the country that continue to practice excellent biosecurity.
"The Chief Vet rightly notes that continued vigilance is needed from all poultry keepers, whether that is large commercial businesses or small backyard flocks.
“Wild birds will always provide a threat of AI so it is vital that good biosecurity measures remain at the forefront of our minds.
"The NFU will continue to work with our members, as well as Defra and Animal and Plant Health Agency, on this issue.”