Bird flu has been big in the press of late as the continued spread across the globe kills and infects thousands of animals including TikTok star Emmanuel and even dolphins and porpoises. A rare human case was confirmed in the UK in early 2022, and now an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been declared by the government to tackle Britain’s worst outbreak on record.
The AIPZ measures mean that bird owners, commercial or otherwise, now have a legal obligation to follow strict biosecurity measures which came into action at midday on Monday 17 October. The goal is to prevent spread among commercial flocks and domestic animals, reducing the spread of avian flu.
“Implementing the highest levels of biosecurity measures on farm is the most effective way in reducing the risk of disease spreading and is the best way to protect flocks,” reads a release from the UK government.
“The introduction of the AIPZ comes after the United Kingdom has faced its largest ever outbreak of avian flu with 190 cases confirmed across the United Kingdom since late October 2021, with over 30 of these confirmed since the beginning of the month.”
The AIPZ measures include:
- Restricting access for non-essential people to relevant sites
- Frequent clothes changing for workers entering bird enclosures
- Regular disinfection of site vehicles
While some measures, such as those above, apply specifically to owners of 500 birds or more, people with backyard animals like chickens, ducks, and geese are also being asked to take preventative measures to avoid disease spreading among their animals.
The avian flu is not yet believed to pose a threat to human health, but as we saw from the COVID-19 pandemic, the more a virus spreads, the greater the chance that a mutation could occur and enable the pathogen to infect human hosts.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that human risk from avian flu remains low, while the Food Standards Agency have expressed that so long as food is properly handled and prepared, there’s little risk from chicken meat and eggs to consumers.
“Bird keepers have faced the largest ever outbreak of avian flu this year and with winter brings an even more increased risk to flocks as migratory birds return to the United Kingdom,” said the Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland, and Wales.
“The introduction of an AIPZ means regardless of whether you keep a few birds or thousands, you are legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”