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Avian flu: Public urged not to touch or pick up wild birds

There have been a number of confirmed cases of avian flu across Great Britain in recent weeks and from Monday onwards it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of the disease.

Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months can carry the disease and this can lead to cases in poultry and other captive birds.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s Trading Standards team is issuing advice and working with Rushcliffe Borough Council and other partner agencies to reduce the risk of the spread of the disease.

A 10km temporary control zone has been introduced around Barrow upon Soar across the border in Leicestershire following an outbreak on a poultry farm in the area.

The temporary control zone, which is already in place and covers an area of Rushcliffe, restricts animal movements and visits within the control zone to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

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The new housing measures, which will come into force on Monday 29 November, mean that it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.

Avian Influenza is in no way connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is not carried in poultry.

•  Warning to residents after Avian Flu detected in a swan in a Rushcliffe village

The introduction of housing measures means that from 29 November, in addition to housing all poultry and captive birds, keepers must continue taking extra precautions to keep their flocks safe. This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles when entering or exiting sites and limiting access to non-essential workers or visitors.

For details of the cases and the measures that apply in the disease control zones, see the avian influenza: cases and disease control zones in England guidance. You can also find out about licences for movements from disease control zones in force.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advises that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.

However, it is vital that anyone spotting any sick or dead birds do not touch them and that they contact the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Councillor John Cottee, Chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Communities Committee, said: “The news that a swan has tested positive for avian flu will obviously be of concern to residents, however the risk of the disease transferring from birds to humans is considered to be very low.

“That said, it is important that people do not touch any sick or dead birds and I would also urge people not to feed any swans, particularly in the Hickling area, as feeding encourages them to congregate and that increases the risk of the disease spreading.

“As well as issuing an appeal for the public not to touch or move dead birds, I am also asking dog owners to keep their pets away from them.”

Rushcliffe Borough Council’s Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment and Safety, Cllr Rob Inglis, said: “Whilst the risk is considered to be very low it’s important everyone including pet owners take these steps to ensure they or their pets do not touch or go near sick or dying birds.”

For the temporary control zone, road signs will be put up to warn motorists that they are entering an avian flu restricted zone.

Posters will also be put up across the area asking the public not to feed ducks or swans and reminding residents to keep to footpaths and to keep dogs on leads.

Anyone who finds dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey should report them to the DEFRA helpline (03459 33 55 77).

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