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Avian Influenza Update

Dr Kenny Nutting BVetMed MRCVS, St David’s Game Bird Services

Following the number of Avian Influenza cases that have been seen across the UK this winter, it is important that all gamekeepers continue to be highly vigilant during this time, and take the appropriate steps, where necessary, to limit the risk of the spread of disease.

Clinical signs of Avian Influenza can be seen as soon as 24 hours after initial infection (usually in cases of a ‘high path’ strain). Sudden death is the most dramatic effect of Avian Influenza. Dullness, a loss of appetite, depression, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, swelling of the face, nervous signs such as paralysis and sometimes green diarrhoea are all also clinical signs. However, birds infected with ‘low path’ Avian Influenza may not show any signs at all. When Avian Influenza is suspected you must contact the APHA immediately either directly or via your veterinary surgeon.

New housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds were brought into place across England, Scotland and Wales on Monday 14th December. Whilst the new housing measures will not impact released birds, it is applicable to overwintered laying stock. The majority of hens will either be in open or netted wintering pens, with a few in their laying units. In these instances, if you have the capabilities to house the birds you should. If this is not possible, you should net the birds using rearing nets.

Precautions should also be taken to limit wild bird contact such as:

  • • Avoid feeding ad-lib
  • • If feed is spread on the ground, ensure it is consumed in a short period of time
  • • Use of bird deterrents
  • • Net all ponds in close proximity if possible.

Biosecurity is paramount to preventing Avian Influenza. A lack of a good biosecurity plan will lead to a heightened risk of disease transfer. We advise that you ensure the following biosecurity measures are in place: 

  • • Limit the number of staff going in and out of where the birds are kept
  • • Use separate clothing and boots if birds are kept in different locations
  • • Use Intercidas a boot dip. This can be ordered through our dispensary and is less aggressive against shoes
  • • Keep a written record of anybody moving on and off site
  • • Keep different species separate if you have “pet birds” on site.

As part of your annual ongoing cleaning regime, the 3-Ds are an effective code to live by. To maintain strong biosecurity, it is important to clean equipment regularly. This includes houses, pens, drinkers, feeders, quad bikes and trucks.

  • • First, DRENCH. Power wash everything to remove organic material, then allow to dry completely.
  • • Next, DETERGENT.  Use a powerful cleaner and degreaser, then again allow to dry completely.
  • • Finally, DISINFECT. Spray a disinfectant known to kill Cocci and viruses.

You can watch me discussing the 3-Ds protocol on how to clean your sheds here: A Cleaning Pack with the products we advise can be purchased through Water systems need to be cleaned thoroughly, a hydrogen peroxide based clean will remove organic biofilm and algae. To help reduce the spread of disease across pens have foot dips available for all transitions between different areas, the foot dips need to be covered and regularly changed.

In summary, good husbandry is one of the best ways to prevent Avian Influenza. You should inspect your birds daily and review your current biosecurity procedures and amend if necessary. Clean and disinfect all equipment, clothes and footwear before and after use, and provide separate clothing and footwear for different premises. Remember – whilst Avian Influenza is easily spread, it is not resistant to disinfectants or soap.


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