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Defra's Chief Vet makes statement on Avian Influenza and the new poultry register

by 5m Editor
7 February 2006, at 12:00am

UK - Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds has made a new statement about Avian Influenza and the new poultry register.

Defra's Chief Vet makes statement on Avian Influenza (bird flu) and the new poultry register - UK - Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds has made a new statement about Avian Influenza and the new poultry register.

She said:

“Defra is working in close partnership with the UK poultry industry, independent experts and others to ensure that the UK is thoroughly prepared to prevent an outbreak of avian flu and has robust plans in place to contain and eradicate it if it does occur.

“In December we launched the poultry register. Its purpose is to provide a central database of information on poultry premises. This information will only be used for preventing and controlling avian flu, more specifically: to improve our risk assessment and contingency planning; and to enable effective up to date communication with poultry keepers.

“Keepers with 50 or more birds have a statutory obligation to register. Priority has been given to these flocks because, if infected, they could act as significant sources of disease spread as they are large enough for virus to circulate and multiply sufficiently to spread infection through movement to or other contacts with another premises. “

Statement on Avian Influenza In Full

1. Defra is closely monitoring global developments on avian influenza. Taking account of the latest incidents in Eastern Europe, our current risk assessment remains that the overall risk of an imminent outbreak in the UK of avian flu (H5N1) is increased, but still low. However, there is a high risk of further global dispersal and future events may lead us to change our risk assessment. That is why we constantly keep alert to developing factors and are ready to act if necessary.

2. Defra is working in close partnership with the UK poultry industry, independent experts and others to ensure that the UK is thoroughly prepared to prevent an outbreak of avian flu and has robust plans in place to contain and eradicate it if it does occur. With these partners we have issued leaflets and posters to poultry keepers on how they can protect their flocks. We have used specialist journals and representative bodies to get these messages to hobby groups and small and non-commercial keepers and have provided information materials to intermediaries, such as posters for veterinary surgeries.

3. In December we launched the Poultry Register. Its purpose is to provide a central database of information on poultry premises. This information will only be used for preventing and controlling avian flu, more specifically: to improve our risk assessment and contingency planning; and to enable effective up to date communication with poultry keepers.

4. Keepers with 50 or more birds have a statutory obligation to register. Priority has been given to these flocks because, if infected, they could act as significant sources of disease spread as they are large enough for virus to circulate and multiply sufficiently to spread infection through movement to or other contacts with another premises.

5. Small flocks have a low likelihood of contracting avian flu if good biosecurity practices are followed. Even if disease were to occur in small flocks the risk of further spread would likewise be very small. Backyard flocks in the UK are kept in different ways to the village flocks of SE Asia and Eastern Europe where some poultry keepers have been infected through intimate contact with infected birds. However, we are encouraging all owners of flocks of fewer than 50 birds to register voluntarily to enhance the value of the register to all concerned, both in terms of improving contingency planning and improving our ability to communicate with poultry keepers.

6. In the event of an outbreak there would be movement restrictions that would apply to all birds in the area. SVS patrols will identify any flocks that should have registered but did not, including any small poultry flocks.

7. As with all our communications on avian influenza poultry keeping organisations have played an important role in promoting the register to their members. They have circulated thousands of leaflets and held events to raise awareness of the need to register and implement strict biosecurity. This activity will continue over the coming weeks, including advertisements in local press and specialist magazines, several of which have also published editorials urging readers to register. The deadline for registering flocks with 50 or more birds is 28 February 2006. However, we are keeping the register open after this date to allow voluntary registrations to continue.

8. Everyone keeping poultry should follow the biosecurity advice that has been made available and take commonsense hygiene precautions as a barrier to disease. It is important to remember that the UK is free from avian influenza and we want to keep it that way. Meanwhile, if there are any suspicions of avian flu, poultry keepers should report them to local Animal Health Divisional Office immediately.

To register your poultry: www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/vetsurveillance/poultry/index.htm

Further information: see the avian influenza pages in Defra's animal health section.

Source: Defra - 7th February 2006

5m Editor