Avian influenza (AI), commonly known as bird flu, is a highly contagious viral disease affecting the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous system of many species of birds. It may also pose a threat to people and other animals in certain circumstances.

Get more guidance and answers to your frequently asked questions below.

What should I look out for?

Avian influenza (bird flu) viruses can be classified according to their ability to cause severe disease (pathogenicity) in birds as either highly pathogenic or low pathogenic. Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAI) can cause severe disease in susceptible birds and low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAI) generally cause mild disease or no disease at all.

HPAI is the more serious type. It is often fatal in birds. LPAI is usually less serious.

It can cause mild breathing problems but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection. The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.

The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:

  • Swollen head;
  • Blue discoloration of neck and throat;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Respiratory distress, such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling;
  • Diarrhoea;
  • Fewer eggs laid;
  • Increased mortality.

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection. The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.

What action can I take to protect my flock?

Follow the biosecurity advice and guidance on the Avian Influenza webpage on the DAERA Website and complete your biosecurity checklist now. Take action immediately and consider this checklist regularly and ensure that you can tick every box. Visit the gov.uk website for further information: Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

How can I find out if my birds are in a zone?

Full details of the scope and measures required within any of the declared zones can be viewed in the published declarations, which are available to view at the following link:- Disease Control Zone Declarations

Can I move birds within a zone and if so, do I need a licence?

All moves within any of the declared Temporary Control Zones (TCZs), Protections Zones (PZs) and Surveillance Zones (SZs) are required to be licenced. For more information, please see the Movement within Zones section.

For General Licences which are currently available, please visit the following page: General Licences

With the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) in place, there is currently a ban on poultry gatherings. The mandatory biosecurity measures are to help prevent the spread of the disease from wild birds, or another source, to poultry.

What should I do if I find dead wild birds?

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has advised that human infections with AI are rare as it is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the health of the general public is very low.  

The current guidelines from the PHA are as follows:

  • do not pick up or touch sick, dying or dead poultry or wild birds, and keep pets away from them;
  • avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with bird faeces;
  • avoid untreated bird feathers (such as those found in the environment) and other bird waste;
  • maintain good personal hygiene with regular hand washing with soap and use of alcohol-based hand rubs.

However, if dead birds need to be disposed of DAERA advice is as follows:

  • wear disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling dead birds to protect hands from contamination;
  • wear a face mask to protect against splashes of faeces or body fluids;
  • place the dead wild bird in a suitably sized and robust plastic bag, preferably leak proof. Take care not to contaminate the outside of the bag;
  • tie the bag and place it in a second plastic bag;
  • tie the second bag and dispose of it, with the gloves, in the normal household refuse bin;
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water;
  • remove and put directly into the wash any clothing that might have become contaminated.

Do I need to register to my flock?

Yes. By law, bird keepers should register their birds. This applies to all birds except those kept within your home. Please find the link to the Bird Registration Form

Where can I find the latest information?

You can find the latest information on the DAERA website here

By signing up to our free text alert service you can keep up to date with the latest news. You will receive immediate notification of any disease outbreak or other important disease information, enabling you to protect your flock at the earliest opportunity.

Subscription is easy. Simply text ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.

And keep checking the DAERA Website for regular updates

How should eggs from housed birds be labelled and marketed?

If free range flocks have been housed for longer than 16 weeks due to Avian Influenza, their eggs must be labelled and marketed as ‘Barn Eggs’. Guidance on requirements can be found on the following page:

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