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Compulsory housing measures for poultry and captive birds are to be lifted at the end of this month, the chief veterinary officers from England, Scotland and Wales have announced.
The housing measures, introduced across Great Britain in December as one of a range of measures to stop the spread of avian influenza, have been protecting birds from the disease which is circulating in wild birds.
These have been successful in helping to contain the disease and, provided that there are no new significant cases between now and the end of March, the current measures are due to be relaxed. The last confirmed case in poultry in Great Britain was on February 12 in Scotland.
While the risk of bird flu has been reduced to ‘medium’, the risk of outbreaks is likely to persist for several weeks.
As a result, enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Protection Zone (AIPZ) on November 11 will remain in place.
Bird keepers are advised to use the time between now and March 31 to prepare the ranges and outdoor areas for release of the birds, including cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.
In addition, when the birds are allowed out at the end of March all poultry and captive bird keepers will need to keep taking extra precautions, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-essential people on their sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.
In a joint statement Great Britain’s three chief veterinary officers said: ‘This will be welcome news for poultry keepers across the country who have put great effort into keeping their flocks safe this winter.
‘We have taken swift action to contain and eliminate this disease and all bird keepers – whether they have just a few birds or thousands – must continue do their bit to maintain strict biosecurity measures on their premises so that we do not lose the progress that we have made over the past few months as Low risk does not mean no risk.
‘Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.’
Pic cap: Poultry will be allowed out from March 31