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What you need to know about Avian Flu

06/07/17

What you need to know about Avian Flu

Continuing to be one of the biggest threats to local and international poultry farming is the ever present threat of a full blown outbreak of Avian Flu.  With small scale warnings and exclusion zones being established almost weekly it is essential to be aware of any warning signs and most importantly how to quickly respond before it devastates your flocks whilst putting serious strains of your business financially.

We have broken down 9 of the most important things to be aware of and prepared for to keep you informed and ready to act fast.

1/ What is Avian Flu?

Avian Flu, more commonly referred to as Bird Flu comes in a number of strains with the most recent being technically know and H5N8.  It currently affects a full spectrum of wildfowl and poultry including Chickens, Ducks, Geese and Turkeys.

2/ How is it spread?

Most commonly spread directly from bird to bird it can also be passed on via the environment, from wild bird droppings, contaminated water and feed, dirty vehicles, footwear and clothing.  It is an extremely hardy virus, which in the right atmosphere can lay dormant for up to 50 days.

 3/ How to prevent an outbreak?

While it is not possible to completely guarantee your protection from an outbreak having strong policies in place for Bio-security will give you maximum protection.

Prevention is always better than the cure, when keeping poultry you can easily reduce risks by following the recommended actions

  1. Minimise movement through enclosures.
  2. Keep feed and water undercover and away from wild birds, avoid placing food on the ground or in uncovered troughs.
  3. Keep footwear clean, use a foot bath, boot brush and DEFRA approved disinfectant (to see the latest list click here).
  4. Clean and disinfect vehicles regularly to minimise spread of material. All our engineers are expertly trained in biosecurity and fully cleanse vehicles and workwear after every visit to any poultry/associated site regardless of if there is an outbreak or not.
  5. Maintain a tidy environment, remove surplus feed and keep clean.
  6. Reduce wild birds in your area, install scarecrows and bird scarers to keep them away.
  7. Keep Ducks and Geese apart from Chickens and other poultry.
  8. Stop unwanted visitors, keep fenced areas secure and free from vermin and other wildfowl.
  9. Keep external hard areas clean and disinfected.

4/ How do I know I have infected livestock?

As part of your job you are likely to come across dead birds at some time.  If you discover a dead wild bird in particular a Duck, Goose or Swan you should report it for testing.

There are currently two type of Bird Flu to look out for, the first and more serious is ‘Highly pathogenic avian influenza’ (HPAI) with the main symptoms that you should look at for being:

  • Swollen Head.
  • Blue coloration of throat and neck.
  • Coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling, a gaping beak and other signs of respiratory distress.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Reduction in eggs laid.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Noticeable increase in mortality.

Symptoms can vary across species.

The second and less serious strain is known as ‘Low pathogenic avian influenza’ (LPAI)

With less obvious symptoms including: mild breathing problems and less clear signs of infection.  LPAI is generally only a serious health risk when the bird has any other types of illness.

5/ How do I manage an outbreak?

We would recommend that you create a written plan of action to refer to in case of any infection across your livestock.

Upon infection you will often be required to cull any contaminated birds and safely dispose of any carcasses this can be through on site incineration such as the Addfield Mini AB incineration unit or using a third party provider.

Following that you would need an extended cleaning and disinfection process to take place across you entire premises. An example of some of the restrictions enforced includes:

A protection zone will be established covering your grounds and up to 10km of the surrounding area this will impact upon your general movement activities.

You will need to keep your birds inside their buildings or ensure they are isolated from other poultry, captive and wild birds.

You will not be able to transport any birds without a special license.

You will not be able to move pigs or other animals susceptible to bird flu on or off premises without a licence.

You will need to ensure that all bird carcasses are disposed of in accordance with any veterinarian guidance.

Implement all bio-security measures for people entering and leaving any premises where poultry, captive birds or eggs are kept.

You will be expected to keep detailed records e.g. poultry movements and visitor records during the outbreak.

For a full set of requirements read the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone declaration

6/ Am I at risk?

Although it is rare for a crossover of Avian Flu into humans if you do have an outbreak of bird flu on your grounds and you do begin to show signs of flu like symptoms such as a fever, sore throat coughing or conjunctivitis it is recommended that you contact your local doctor.

7/ Keep alert.

Don’t wait until you have an outbreak to react. Stay up to date with the latest news regarding contamination in your area through the DEFRA website.

Sign up to an Alert Service to keep up to date with the latest information.

8/ Who to contact first?

If you believe that there is the risk of any bird flu related death for your livestock contact DEFRA on 0845 9335577

If you suspect any type of avian flu you must notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency APHA as soon as possible as failure to do so is an offence.

9/ Have an incineration solution ready.

Of course we will always recommend the benefits of having an onsite incinerator installed, beyond simply being the cost effective way of managing your own waste.  When an outbreak of Avian Flu or similar occurs you need to restrict the visitors to and from your land to prevent cross contamination.

Using an external waste management firm brings strong risks of introducing external contamination from machinery and improperly cleaned footwear.

Even if you are currently unaffected by an avian flu outbreak all it takes is one collection from an infected vehicle and it could decimate your flock.

We know that we may not be the experts in Avian Flu however, we have worked with enough farms before and after an outbreak to know the devastating impact it can have on you.  Where our expertise lies is in over 30 years of manufacturing and supplying on site incineration from small independent farms to large industrial farming installations.  We know what we are talking about and are always here to talk through your requirements.

To discover more about the real financial and environmental benefits of managing your own incineration call or email our sales team today on 01543 571280, sales@addfield.com

For additional information on Avian flu you can access guidance notes from here and here.

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