Bird flu: UK's worst ever outbreak sees new rules for South West keepers as prevention zone launched

The UK is experiencing its worst-ever outbreak of bird flu

A bird flu prevention zone has been put in place for much of the South West - meaning keepers must follow strict new rules.

It comes as the UK is experiencing its worst-ever outbreak of bird flu.

An avian influence zone was introduced across Devon, Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and parts of Somerset at midday on Wednesday (31 August).

It comes as an outbreak of bird flu has impacted more than 1,500 wild birds in more than 360 locations.

A total of 61 different species have tested positive for the highly-infectious strain, with dead gannets among the wild birds washing up on the UK's beaches.

Paignton Zoo has had to close after one of its birds tested positive for the disease.

What are the new rules for bird keepers in the South West?

The zone covers all of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as well as a significant portion of Somerset

There are new rules affecting everyone who owns birds - even just people who have one or two animals in their gardens.

They include:

  • Cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing

  • reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control

  • thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis

  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points

  • minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds

  • prevent access by poultry to ponds and watercourses and ensure that birds are kept in fenced or enclosed areas

The zone does not include the requirement to house birds but Defra says it is being kept "under constant review".

See the the Government's full minimum biosecurity requirements here.

Outbreak poses 'low risk' to the public

The UK Health Security Agency says the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency advice remains unchanged - that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

The UK’s deputy chief veterinary officer Richard Irvine said: “Following a number of detections of avian influenza we have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone across Cornwall, Devon and parts of Somerset. This means that all bird keepers in the region must take action now to both prevent disease getting in to flocks and it spreading any further.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to introduce higher biosecurity standards on your farm or small holding.

"It is in your interests to do so in order to protect your birds from this highly-infectious disease.”