Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
On 2 November, the Chief Veterinary Officer (England) confirmed two separate unrelated cases of Avian Influenza (AI) in England, one of which was a highly pathogenic H5N8 strain, in a commercial broiler breeder flock of chickens in Cheshire.
Further to these cases, there have been findings of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 in wild birds in England, in Gloucestershire and Devon. Combined, these findings of disease, serve to remind us of the risk avian influenza poses to our poultry industry in Wales and the need to respond accordingly.
A risk assessment has been conducted in light of these recent findings, and on 6 November all four UK Chief Veterinary Officers agreed to increase the UK risk level for disease incursion in wild birds from medium to high. Additionally, the risk to poultry has been increased from low to medium. The risk to poultry, however, is dependent on the level of biosecurity at individual sites. Effective biosecurity measures play a vital part in helping to reduce the risk.
As a precautionary measure, in response to the increased risk level and to mitigate the risk of infection to poultry and other captive birds by wild birds, I am declaring an all Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, under Article 6 of the Avian Influenza and Influenza of Avian Origin in Mammals (Wales) (No. 2) Order 2006. The Prevention Zone will apply from 17:00 on 11 November 2020.
The Prevention Zone will require all keepers of poultry and other captive birds, irrespective of how they are kept, to take appropriate and practicable steps, including:
- Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example, by netting ponds and by removing wild bird food sources;
- Feed and water your birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;
- Minimise movement of people in and out of bird enclosures;
- Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy;
- Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.
Keepers with more than 500 birds will also be required to take extra biosecurity measures, including restricting access to non-essential people, changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles.
Whilst to date we have had no findings of Avian Influenza in Wales in 2020, I consider this current Prevention Zone and the requirement for enhanced biosecurity to be proportionate to the risk level we face. It is essential we take proactive steps to protect our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy in Wales. As such, the Prevention Zone will be complimented by a temporary suspension of all bird gatherings across Wales.
We all have a responsibility to prevent disease and protect the health of our National flock in Wales. All keepers of poultry and other captive birds will need to comply with the requirements of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone. Keepers must remain vigilant for signs of disease. Avian influenza is a notifiable disease and any suspicion should be reported immediately to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Housing controls are not currently being made mandatory under the requirements of this Prevention Zone. Good, stringent biosecurity measures are our best defence against all animal diseases, and for many bird keepers this Prevention Zone will not change the strict steps currently taken to protect your birds. However, this is an opportune moment for everyone to review biosecurity practises and ask whether more can be done These conditions are a minimum all are asked to comply with as we face this disease risk. Individual bird keepers may feel housing their flocks at this stage is necessary to protect them, and we in Government have not ruled out mandatory housing as an additional measure that can be introduced as we continue to review the disease risk and gain a better understanding as the situation develops. In reviewing and increasing your biosecurity measures, I urge you all to consider housing your birds, and how you would introduce such measures, should the requirements of the Prevention Zone require it.
I continue to strongly encourage all poultry keepers, even those with fewer than 50 birds, to provide their details to the Poultry Register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately, via email or text update, in an avian disease outbreak, enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.
I must remind everyone that Avian Influenza is not related to Covid-19. However, in light of the current public health pandemic and the difficulties we have all faced as a result, it is particularly vital we be proactive towards the control of avian influenza and take these early steps.
Information on the requirements of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, guidance and latest developments will be available on the Welsh Government website.