Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
As you are aware, on the 6 December 2016, I declared the whole of Wales an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 outbreaks being reported across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. This was a precautionary measure to minimise the risk of poultry and other captive birds being infected by wild birds.
We have been closely monitoring this situation and the Animal and Plant Health Agency have been preparing updated outbreak risk assessments. The most recent evidence based veterinary risk assessment, considered the risk of incursions into poultry farms of HPAI H5N8 from contact primarily with resident wild waterfowl, but also other possible pathways.
It concluded that there remains a Low – Medium risk of resident wild waterfowl being infected with H5N8 and the exposure assessment risk for poultry farms is Low, but heightened and will depend on the biosecurity measures on each farm. This level is consistent with November 2016, when disease was present across Europe in sporadic outbreaks and occasional wild bird findings were being reported.
Therefore, I am pleased to announce that following the expiry of the current Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in Wales on 30 April this will not be replaced.
Whilst I am sure this is welcome news it is important to remember that avian influenza remains a constant and real threat to our poultry and other captive birds and I would like to stress the need for all keepers of poultry and other domestic captive birds to remain alert for signs of the disease and to contact their private veterinarians if they have any concerns. If anyone suspects disease they should contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately.
It is essential that all keepers maintain effective biosecurity and consider maintaining the enhanced biosecurity practices put in place as part of the expiring AIPZ, such as considering and updating the self assessment forms, cleansing and disinfecting (using approved disinfectants) all clothing, equipment and vehicles and implementing effective pest control measures to minimise the opportunities of contact between your birds and wild birds / wild life.
If poultry or other captive birds are being let outside after a prolonged period of being housed then I would strongly recommend that you consult your private veterinarian with regards to the health impacts.
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind all poultry keepers with 50 birds or more that they must register their flocks on the Poultry Register and I would strongly encourage all poultry keepers, including 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.
We can all play a part in supporting poultry and other captive bird keepers by respecting and complying with their biosecurity measures and reporting any findings of dead wild birds to the GB helpline 03459 335577. In particular, any wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey or where more than five birds of any species are found dead in the same location.
I will continue to monitor this situation closely and will provide a further update once the temporary suspension on gatherings of some species in Wales may be lifted. Gatherings present a greater risk activity with birds being potentially brought together from across GB and beyond. Therefore, my officials are working closely with England and Scotland in considering this matter and will report back to me before the end of May.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.