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Avian influenza: Risk of incursion into the UK remains very high

Free range hens

AVIAN INFLUENZA continues to circulate in wild birds across continental Europe and the UK, with several new cases on commercial farms recorded in the past week.

In the UK, two farms in Norfolk tested positive for H5N8 avian influenza last weekend. More wild bird findings in Britain have been uncovered, as well.

See also: 4 key things to know about a free-range poultry housing order

And in Europe, the spread of avian influenza shows no sign of slowing down.

A duck farm in the south west of France was hit by the virus, making it the first in the country this winter.

Another farm in Germany, a laying hen premises housing 28,000 birds, tested positive.

In the Netherlands, there have been three new cases on commercial poultry farms in the past week, meaning that 10 farms in total have been hit by the virus this winter in the country.

Reporting

The Dutch have a legal requirement to report higher mortality or even feed and water dipping for a sustained period, and these conditions have also been tightened this week in an attempt to detect new cases faster.

While all commercial cases in the Netherlands have been H5N8, highly pathogenic H5N1 and H5N5 variants have been confirmed in wild birds.

However, these are related to the H5N8 virus and not the H5N1 variant that infected people in Asia.

Wild birds

As a consequence, the risk to public health is still considered low.

There have been new wild bird findings in Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Poland and Ukraine, as well as Slovenia Spain and Sweden.

A housing order will come into place across Great Britain for kept birds, meaning that all poultry must be housed by law, in an attempt to reduce the risk of spread on 14 December.

We have gathered together what we know about the impending housing order in this article.

The risk of avian influenza being found in wild birds in the UK is now considered very high by Defra. It is medium for commercial flocks, but high if good biosecurity is not in place.