From Monday bird keepers will be legally required to keep their poultry away from wild birds, the Government has said. It comes as cases of bird flu – also known as avian influenza – continue to rise.
The ruling was made after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said there was a growing number of cases involving captive birds across several areas in Britain.
So far 15 cases have been detected in England – leading to local exclusions zone in a bid to stop the virus from escaping outside the affected area.
The most recent case was reported in Leicestershire just hours ago.
Sadly the zones have not been effective enough and – much like with the Covid pandemic – the Government has now resorted to a nationwide strategy.
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In a joint statement, the UK’s four chief veterinary officers said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.
“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday 29 November onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.
“We have not taken this decision lightly, taking this action now is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”
Before today’s news, a bird flu protection zone had been declared which meant tougher rules for those keeping more than 500 birds.
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All bird keepers were legally required to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks – a precaution set to continue under the latest changes.
Part of this meant keepers must regularly clean and disinfect clothing, equipment and vehicles and limit access to non-essential workers and visitors.
There have been concerns that birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe could bring the disease over during the winter months.
Separating wild birds from poultry is seen as key to stopping the virus from continuing to spread.
Bird flu – officially known as the H5N1 virus – is highly contagious and has been recorded in numerous locations across the planet this year.
It is incredibly deadly to birds and can decimate entire flocks.
But officials are keen to stress that the risks it poses to humans are low – even though in rare cases it has transferred to people.
It is also safe to eat poultry products, officials said.