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Bird keepers urged to take extra precautions over ‘bird flu’

Published 19th November 2021

Sandwell residents with captive birds are being asked to take extra precautions to keep them safe from avian influenza.

Following the government’s declaration of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain on 3 November, residents with captive birds in Sandwell are being asked to take extra precautions to keep them safe. Avian influenza H5N1m, also known as ‘bird flu’, has been confirmed at several sites across the country.

The AIPZ requires all bird keepers – including those with poultry – to take a range of precautions to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.

All bird keepers, including those have pets or small flocks in their gardens, are required to
• Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry;
• Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources;
• Feed and water their birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;
• Minimise movement into and out of bird enclosures;
• Cleanse and disinfect footwear and keep clean and tidy the areas where birds live;
• Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas;
• Keep free-ranging birds within fenced areas, and ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off (except in specific circumstances, such as zoo birds).

Sandwell Council parks staff and wildlife experts have been working with our partners and sites – including Forge Mill Farm and Sandwell Valley – where birds frequent or reside, to ensure these measures are adhered to, and provide support where needed.

The AIPZ will stay in place until the government deems the risk has passed.

Councillor Suzanne Hartwell, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for adults, social care and health, said: “The risk to human health from avian influenza is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and it does not affect the consumption of poultry products including eggs.

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

Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and communities – whose portfolio includes animal welfare – said: “The AIPZ means it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Sandwell to follow strict biosecurity measures to limit the spread of and eradication of this disease.”

“All poultry and captive bird keepers need to take extra precautions, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-essential people on their sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.”

Councillor Maria Crompton, Sandwell Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “Sandwell Council works to ensure that our borough is a safe environment for all, and we are putting in place robust measures to protect our neighbourhoods and communities from the spread of avian influenza.”

Avian influenza is a notifiable animal disease: if anyone suspects any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds, they must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.

If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 335577).

Find out the latest government advice about domestic poultry and bird keeping (the text takes you to a web link).

Find out more about DEFRA biosecurity guidance on housing and additional biosecurity measures for birds (the text takes you to a web link).

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