Information on Animal Diseases

About Avian Flu

UPDATE 01/09/2017: Poultry keepers urged to take action now to prepare for winter Avian Flu threat

The Chief Vets of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK are encouraging keepers to take action now to reduce their disease risk.

Simple measures can help to keep flocks disease free. All keepers – whether they run a large commercial farm or keep just a few pet chickens in their back garden – can take these simple steps to reduce the risk of disease before autumn migration of ducks and geese begins:

  • Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly disinfect any hard surfaces. Clean footwear before and after visits.
  • Place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly.
  • Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl.
  • In Great Britain, stay alert by signing up online to a free service to receive text or email alerts on any outbreaks of bird flu in the UK. You can also quickly and easily register your flock online. In Northern Ireland, visit the DAERA website for further information.

Last winter, the H5N8 strain of bird flu was found in 13 kept flocks in the UK – ranging in size from as few as nine to as many as 65,000 birds. We have seen a decline in the number of new cases over the summer, but the disease is still circulating in kept poultry across Europe, with Italy the most recent country to suffer a series of outbreaks. It has also recently been confirmed in a dead mute swan in Norfolk.

The Government is working with groups including NFUs in England and Scotland, the Ulster Farmers’ Union, RSPCA, British Hen Welfare Trust and Poultry Club of Great Britain to highlight the importance of keeping up high biosecurity even though the immediate disease risk has dropped.

Together, the groups are also keen to highlight the impact of bird flu on the poultry industry – a case in a backyard flock leads to the same trade restrictions in an area as an outbreak on a commercial farm, so protecting chickens in a back garden from the disease also protects farmers locally and nationally.

Given the recent outbreaks in wild birds in Norfolk and on the Continent, there is every likelihood the disease will return this winter. Last year’s outbreak is believed to have been transmitted via migratory wild birds, which means keepers need to be aware of the danger of contact between wild and kept birds and take action now.

All keepers in Great Britain can stay up to date with the latest situation by signing up for the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s free alerts service.

UPDATE 11/04/2017: All poultry in England to be allowed outside from 13 April

All poultry in England are to be allowed outside from Thursday 13 April 2017 following updated evidence on the risk posed by wild birds, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has announced.

The requirement to keep poultry in Higher Risk Areas of England housed or completely enclosed in netting will be lifted. However, all keepers in England will continue to be required to comply with strict biosecurity measures. A ban on poultry gatherings also remains in force until further notice.

Read the full update on the Defra website.

UPDATE 01/03/2017: Updated rules to help prevent spread of avian flu

Defra have released updated rules for poultry keepers to help prevent the spread of avian flu. Read them on the Defra website.

Defra have also released this short, simple advice for keepers of backyard flocks to help keep their birds safe from avian flu.

UPDATE 19/01/2017: Information issued for those involved with gamebirds

Government, and shooting and countryside organisations have issued information about avian flu for all those involved with gamebirds. Read the information on The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation website.

UPDATE 05/01/2017: Poultry gatherings suspended following avian flu case

 The requirement to keep all poultry “housed” has been extended to 28 February 2017. Risks to public health are very low and avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for the UK consumer.
See for more information:

Bird flu has also been confirmed in chickens and ducks in a backyard on a premise in Carmarthenshire in southwest Wales.

UPDATE 20/12/2016: Poultry gatherings suspended following avian flu case

A temporary suspension on gatherings of some species of birds will apply across England, Scotland and Wales from today, Tuesday 20 December 2016, following a case of highly pathogenic avian flu of the H5N8 strain at a farm in Lincolnshire.

The ban on gatherings applies to birds at higher risk of avian flu including chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, and restricts events such as livestock fairs, auctions and bird shows.

Please see:

UPDATE 06/12/2016: New Measures Announced To Protect Poultry From Avian Flu

The Government Chief Vet has declared a Prevention Zone introducing enhanced biosecurity requirements for poultry and captive birds, helping protect them from a strain of avian flu circulating in mainland Europe. The zone covers England and will remain in place for 30 days. Declarations have also been made by the Scottish Government and Welsh Government.

Please visit for more information.

Guidance on how to spot avian influenza (bird flu), what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent it.

Avian influenza mainly affects birds. It can also affect humans and other mammals.

How to spot avian influenza

There are 2 types of avian influenza.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the more serious type. It is often fatal in birds. The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:

  • swollen head
  • blue discoloration of neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • diarrhea
  • fewer eggs laid
  • increased mortality

Clinical signs can vary between species of bird and some species may show minimal clinical signs (ducks and geese).

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.

The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.

For more information and guidance please  click

If you suspect any strain of avian flu you must tell your nearest Animal and Plant and Health Agency (APHA) office immediately. Failure to do so is an offence

Contingency Planning

It is always a good idea to put a plan in place on what you can protect your own flock.  For further guidance please read the Wild Bird Biosecurity Guidance by clicking here.