UK meets requirements to declare freedom from bird flu

The UK has met international requirements to be declared officially avian influenza free
The UK has met international requirements to be declared officially avian influenza free

The UK has met international requirements to declare freedom from avian influenza, but continued vigilance and good biosecurity is still being urged.

The UK was previously declared free of avian flu in September 2017 and has remained free of highly pathogenic bird flu since then.

But a low pathogenic strain disease was confirmed at a commercial poultry farm in Suffolk in December 2019.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) put movement restrictions in place to limit the spread of disease and carried out investigations into the source of the infection.



The government agency concluded that the most likely source was indirect contact with wild birds.

Under World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) rules, three months must elapse from the application of measures to prevent the spread of disease after cleansing and disinfection of the last infected premises before a country can be declared disease-free.



The UK has now met these international requirements to be declared officially avian influenza free, UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said on Monday (15 June).

But farmers are still being urged to remain vigilant for signs of disease. The chief vet reiterated the need for good biosecurity 'at all times'.

Declaring the UK free from avian flu was an 'important milestone' that would help the UK's efforts to re-open export markets, she said.

"I urge all keepers to be vigilant – there is a constant risk of avian flu from wild birds and this will increase later in the year when winter approaches, temperatures fall, and migratory birds arrive in the UK.

"All poultry keepers should take steps to reduce the risk to their birds by maintaining good robust biosecurity at all times, such as cleaning footwear, feeding birds indoors, and minimising contact with wild birds.

"Building these simple actions into routines now can help prepare for any future outbreaks," Ms Middlemiss said.

The UK CVO will declare on the UK’s behalf by submitting an evidence paper to OIE for publication on the OIE WAHIS website alongside other countries that have already self-declared.