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The Ongoing Threat of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Avian influenza, commonly referred to as bird flu, is a serious global health concern that has been affecting the United Kingdom for decades. With the UK having one of the largest bird populations in Europe, it is no surprise that the country is particularly vulnerable to the spread of avian influenza. 

What is avian influenza?

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a viral disease that affects birds. The virus is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact with infected birds or their secretions. It is a major concern for agriculture because it can lead to the death of poultry and wild birds. 

The virus can also be transmitted to humans, although this is rare. One of the biggest challenges in managing avian influenza is the difficulty of controlling its spread, which requires sterilisation and purification of farming equipment but is much trickier to manage in the wild. 

The current situation

Avian influenza, or bird flu, still continues to be a threat to the UK and worldwide. The virus has been present in some form for decades, but the most recent outbreak started in Asia in 2013. Since then, it has spread to other countries including Europe and the UK.

Great Britian is still in an avian influenza prevention zone (AIPZ) which means by law, bird keepers must follow strict biosecurity rules to prevent bird flu and its spreading.  In the UK, there have been 183 cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza since October 2022, and 286 cases since the current outbreak in October 2021.  

Vaccines are not available to poultry or captive birds in England and only those who meet strict eligibility criteria can vaccinated zoo birds. 

As of May 2023, the risk of bird flu in wild birds in the UK is still assessed as high although any risk to the general public or food safety remains low. 

What can be done to reduce the risk?

To reduce the risk of bird flu, the government and other organisations have implemented various measures, including lockdowns for poultry and captive birds, mandatory housing of captive flocks (to keep them away from wild birds), the sterilisation and purification of equipment and facilities, the culling of infected birds, and the monitoring of wild bird populations. 

Effective sterilisation plays an important role in reducing the risk of avian influenza. Bird keepers should regularly sterilise agricultural equipment, holding pens, living areas and drinking containers to avoid any cross contamination when working in those areas.  Farmers should follow the strict biosecurity rules in their areas including limiting contact with wild birds and isolating sick birds. 

The public can also help by reporting any sightings of dead birds and following biosecurity guidelines when visiting farms or other bird habitats.

Ultimately, everyone must work together to reduce the risk of avian influenza, from individual farmers to government agencies and international organizations.

Agrichlor tablets are a safe disinfectant tablet which provides a complete disinfection solution for farms and bird keepers.  Agrichlor is a DEFRA, DERA and DEARA-approved solution which is effective against bird flu and also many other viruses threatening agricultural settings such as swine vesicular disease, foot and mouth, newcastle disease.