Confirmed case of HPAI H5N1 in England

Date published: 28 October 2021

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) Dr Robert Huey has issued a warning to all poultry farmers and pet bird keepers following confirmation of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 yesterday at a swan rescue centre in Worcestershire, England. Disease control zones have been put in place around the infected site to limit the risk of the disease spreading.


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 captive birds.

Dr Huey, said: “Following the confirmation of HPAI H5N1 in Worcestershire, I am encouraging all poultry keepers to remain vigilant and take action now as we enter this high risk period.  This is the time to critically review your biosecurity arrangements to reduce the risk of transmission of avian influenza to poultry or other captive birds.

“The Department has developed a biosecurity - self assessment tool which is available on the DAERA website to help bird keepers in the review of their biosecurity arrangements and provide the necessary assurances to protect their birds, the poultry industry and our economy as we come into the high risk winter months. The checklist can be completed online and saved to your device.”

There are some simple measures that all poultry keepers should take to protect their birds against the threat of avian flu. These apply to people running a large commercial farm, keeping a few hens in their back garden and those rearing game birds.

These include:

  • Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly clean and disinfect any hard surfaces
  • Keep chickens and turkeys completely separate from ducks and geese
  • Conduct regular maintenance checks on their sheds
  • Clean moss off the roofs, empty gutters and remove vegetation between sheds where birds are kept
  • Draw up contingency plans for storing bedding and dealing with pests
  • Place birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl
  • Clean and disinfect footwear before and after entering premises where birds are kept

Dr Huey added: “This first avian influenza case of the 2021-22 season in the UK serves as a timely reminder and we can be sure that it is only a matter of time before it reaches our shores. Please remain alert for any signs of disease, continue to adopt good biosecurity measures on your premises and review business continuity plans. 

 “An outbreak of avian influenza in a small backyard flock could impose the same restrictions on movements of birds as if it was found on a commercial farm.  If avian influenza were to enter any flock, including backyard or hobby flocks, it could have a devastating effect on the poultry industry and could significantly impact international trade.”

Bird keepers are also reminded of the need to register their flocks. This enables the Department to contact you in the event of an outbreak of avian disease, giving you the earliest opportunity to protect your flocks. I would also encourage bird keepers to subscribe to the Avian Influenza text service by simply texting ‘BIRDS’ to 67300. Subscribing means you will receive any important disease information immediately. 

DAERA encourages all bird keepers to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of the disease which can be found on the DAERA webpage.  If you are concerned in any way about the health of your birds or if you notice any behaviours that are not normal for your birds please report it immediately to your local DAERA Direct Office on 0300 200 7840.

The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed that avian influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low. The Food Standards Agency has also advised, in avian influenza incursions of this type, that there is a very low risk to public health from the consumption of properly cooked poultry meat or eggs provided appropriate hygiene measures are followed.


Notes to editors: 

  1. Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of bird flu you must report it immediately by calling the DAERA Helpline on 0300 2007840.  Failure to do so is an offence.             
  2. An avian influenza leaflet detailing biosecurity advice can be downloaded at DAERA-NI.GOV.UK 
  3. Defra Press release can be found here Avian influenza - Bird flu identified at a wildbird rescue centre in Worcestershire - GOV.UK (
  4. If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey please report them to DAERA on 0300 200 7840.
  5. For more advice and up to date information, please follow DAERA’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
  6. All poultry and other birds must be registered with DAERA. The application form is available at
  7. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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