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Poultry keepers across the UK are being urged to remain vigilant to the threat of bird flu and take action now to reduce the risk to their flocks and the wider poultry industry this winter.

A joint call from the Chief Vets of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK ask all keepers to take simple steps to reduce the risk of disease before autumn migration of ducks and geese begins again this winter.

These include:

Keeping the area where birds live clean and tidy, controlling rats and mice and regularly disinfecting any hard surfaces.

Cleaning footwear before and after visits.

Placing birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds and removing any spilled feed regularly.

Fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limiting their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl.

Signing up to a free service to receive text or email alerts on any outbreaks of bird flu in the UK.

Last winter, the H5N8 strain of bird flu was found in 13 kept flocks in the UK, ranging in size from as few as nine to as many as 65,000 birds. The UK has seen a decline in the number of new cases over the summer but the disease is still circulating in kept poultry across Europe, with Italy the most recent country to suffer a series of outbreaks. It has also recently been confirmed in a dead mute swan in Norfolk.

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, said:

"While it is undoubtedly good news we haven’t confirmed a case in kept birds in the UK for two months, the disease remains a threat – particularly as we move again towards the colder months.

For that reason we cannot afford to rest on our laurels and I want to remind keepers of flocks large and small to do everything they can to reduce the risk to their birds.

Simple actions you can take now, such as regularly cleaning and disinfecting the area where you keep your birds and signing up for free disease alerts, could really help to reduce the risk of your birds becoming infected this winter."