A case of bird flu has been confirmed at a swan rescue centre in Worcestershire, England.

Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months can carry the disease and this can lead to cases in poultry and captive birds.

Disease control zones have been put in place around the infected site to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer (CVO) Dr Robert Huey has issued a warning to all poultry farmers and pet bird keepers following confirmation of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1.

Huey said: “This is the time to critically review your biosecurity arrangements to reduce the risk of transmission of avian influenza to poultry or other captive birds,” he said.

He outlined some simple measures that all poultry keepers should take to protect their birds against the threat of avian flu.

Commercial farm

These apply to people running a large commercial farm, keeping a few hens in their back garden and those rearing game birds.

These include:

  • Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly clean and disinfect any hard surfaces.
  • Keep chickens and turkeys completely separate from ducks and geese.
  • Conduct regular maintenance checks on their sheds.
  • Clean moss off the roofs, empty gutters and remove vegetation between sheds where birds are kept.
  • Draw up contingency plans for storing bedding and dealing with pests.
  • Place birds’ feed 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.
  • Clean and disinfect footwear before and after entering premises where birds are kept.
  • Disease control zones have been put in place around the infected site to limit the risk of the disease spreading

    Dr Huey added: “This first avian influenza case of the 2021-22 season in the UK serves as a timely reminder and we can be sure that it is only a matter of time before it reaches our shores.

    “An outbreak of avian influenza in a small backyard flock could impose the same restrictions on movements of birds as if it was found on a commercial farm.

    “I would also encourage birdkeepers [in NI] to subscribe to the Avian Influenza text service by simply texting ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.

    “If you are concerned in any way about the health of your birds or if you notice any behaviours that are not normal for your birds please report it immediately to your local DAERA direct office on 0300 200 7840.

    “DAERA encourages all birdkeepers to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of the disease which can be found on the DAERA webpage,” he said.