THE UNITED KINGDOM has regained its country-free status from avian influenza.

It follows the outbreak of low pathogenic H5N3 avian influenza on a Suffolk broiler breeder farm in December last year.

See also: Fresh cases of avian influenza in Hungary

Defra’s epidemiology report concluded that the most likely source of infection was indirect contact with wild birds, and investigations did not suggest it had spread beyond the farm that was first infected.

Under World Organisation for Animal Health rules, three months must pass from secondary cleansing and disinfection before a country can reclaim AI-free status. In the case of the Suffolk farm, it was completed on 13 March.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is still circulating in Eastern Europe, with commercial farms in Hungary still recording some new outbreaks, as well as a single case in Bulgaria.

England’s chief vet said that the AI-free status would help restore export markets, but that poultry producers should remain vigilant.

“The case in December was met with swift action by the APHA and industry, and I would like to thank everyone for their efforts in helping us to very effectively contain the disease.

“However, I urge all keepers to be vigilant – there is a constant risk of avian flu from wild birds, and this will increase later in the year when winter approaches, temperatures fall, and migratory birds arrive in the UK.

“All poultry keepers should take steps to reduce the risk to their birds by maintaining good robust biosecurity at all times, such as cleaning footwear, feeding birds indoors, and minimising contact with wild birds.

“Building these simple actions into routines now can help prepare for any future outbreaks.”