King Charles will praise scientists and researchers at the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) for their 'remarkable' work in tackling the UK's worst ever bird flu outbreak.
His Majesty will today (9 March) visit the APHA's site in Weybridge, Surrey to congratulate scientists and staff for their efforts.
Since late 2021, the UK and Europe has been experiencing one of the worst avian influenza outbreaks on record, with tens of millions of poultry culled.
There have been over 330 cases of avian influenza confirmed across the UK alone since October 2021.
Scientists and staff at the government's veterinary base in Weybridge have played significant role in supporting avian influenza diagnostics and disease control.
Their work to tackle the outbreak aims to protect UK animal and public health, but also support international trading relationships.
Today, the King will undertake a full tour of Weybridge, which will involve briefings on some of most difficult animal health diseases the world faces, including bird flu and bovine TB.
He will visit dedicated specialist research laboratories to see genome mapping and a mosquito laboratory where he will learn about APHA’s vector-borne disease (VBD) programme.
Also attending the APHA tour, Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said the visit was all about recognising the 'remarkable' work of British scientists over the last 18 months.
“The scale of avian influenza outbreaks across the UK and Europe has been unprecedented," she said, "Our response has been underpinned by the world-leading science and disease control work carried out at Weybridge.”
David Holdsworth, chief executive officer of APHA, explained that the agency's staff "work tirelessly day in day out" to protect the UK.
"They have faced a relentless battle against avian influenza over the last two years. I am pleased to welcome His Majesty The King to Weybridge to meet with APHA staff.
“I am proud to showcase our world-leading scientists, field teams and staff and the role they play in protecting the country.”
The King's visit comes against the backdrop of a recent report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which criticised Defra for 'comprehensively failing' in its management of Weybridge.
MPs who sit on the committee said that the government was not sufficiently prioritising the "significant threat to UK health, trade, farming and rural communities" posed by animal diseases.
The risk of a zoonotic disease was 'real' and the consequences were 'devastating', their report, released in November 2022, said.
Beside the ongoing bird flu crisis, recent animal health threats have included the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001.
The UK also faces current and ongoing threats from bovine tuberculosis and potential new diseases including African swine fever (ASF).