THE UK’S chief veterinary officer has declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across England, making biosecurity measures a legal requirement for poultry keepers.

Wales and Scotland have mirrored the move, meaning the new requirements are in place across Great Britain.

See also: Avian influenza: How to spot it and ways to prevent it

Poultry farmers with more than 500 birds are now legally required to take certain measures to prevent AI incursion on farms.

The prevention zone means bird keepers across the country must:

  • 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 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.

Failing to do so could ultimately attract up to six months in prison or an unlimited fine, according to the Scottish government.

In England, the maximum prison sentence is three months and an unlimited fine.

It comes following a second confirmed case of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza on an Avara Foods contracted broiler breeder farm close to Leominster, in Herefordshire.

That followed another highly pathogenic H5N8 outbreak on a broiler breeder rearer farm near Frodsham, Cheshire, last week.

There have also been several wild bird findings across the south-west of England and one in the Republic of Ireland.

And in continental Europe, there has been a huge number of positive tests in dead wild birds, and some cases on commercial farms in the Netherlands.

Christine Middlemiss, the UK’S chief veterinary officer, said: “I have today declared a national Avian Influenza Prevention Zone legislating for actions all bird keepers must take to help prevent the disease spreading to more poultry and other domestic birds.

“Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that bird flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements, and this is in your interests to do, to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”