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U.K. to Relax Avian Influenza Prevention


At the end of March, the U.K. Department of the Environment, Food, and Regional Affairs (equivalent to USDA) will lift existing requirements to confine flocks to houses.  The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone and mandatory biosecurity measures will however be retained.  Farmers will be able to release birds to pasture on April 1st based on a perceived lower risk of infection.  The Animal and Plant Health Agency placed restrictions on outside access on December 14th 2020.


Dr. Aimee Mahony, Chief Poultry Advisor to the National Farmers’ Union, stated “It will be a great relief to farmers with free-range flocks that have had to house their birds for over three months due to these government-imposed measures and they will be pleased that they can once again give their birds access to the outside range area.”  Dr. Mahony stated “It is still incredibly important that everyone who keeps birds remains vigilant and continues to follow enhanced biosecurity measures.”  


The decision by authorities in the U.K was made in the face of continued reports of isolation of avian influenza virus from free-living birds  although incidence rates among commercial poultry in France and Germany have fallen in past weeks. Notwithstanding the decision to allow outside access for flocks, the U.K. Animal and Plant health Agency reported an outbreak of H5N8 on a broiler farm in Staffordshire. A turkey breeder farm near Chester was diagnosed with an H5N3 LPAI strain presumably on routine surveillance in a facility operated at a high level of biosecurity


How effective biosecurity can be achieved using free-range management has yet to be established.