The level of the UK's risk of avian influenza due to an incursion in wild birds has been raised from low to medium but the risk for poultry remains low for introduction of infection onto individual premises.

As a consequence the government is recommending that levels of biosecurity should be increased, particularly for seasonal fattening farms of poultry.

Positive findings in wild birds in Germany and the likely migration routes to the UK have caused the raise in risk level.

An outbreak of avian influenza was recently reported in one of the largest layer farms in Italy and more than 850,000 birds had to be destroyed. Italy has reported 16 more outbreaks of avian influenza during October. The poultry involved included fattening turkeys and layers and seven smallholdings. In three cases wild birds tested positive.

Germany has reported a finding in a wild duck near the border with the Netherlands. They have also reported that a virus from a mute swan sampled in September is different from others previously found in that region but shows high similarities to others across Europe.

Bulgaria has reported two outbreaks of H5N8 HPAI in poultry – one in a commercial duck unit of ~10,000 birds and the other on a backyard far

In the UK, the wild bird migration season is well under way which will bring birds from their breeding grounds in central and north Eurasia to Europe and the UK for wintering. The findings of new incursions in wild birds in Central Europe mirrors what was occurring last year although there is uncertainty around whether it will result in a similar situation to that of last year.

The government strongly recommends that all poultry keepers, including smallholders, review their biosecurity measures and business continuity plans now, as the risk level may well increase in the coming weeks. They should familiarise themselves with government guidance on good biosecurity and how to report suspicion of disease appropriately.

The public can call the Defra helpline (Tel: 03459 33 55 77) to report findings of dead wild birds, in particular any wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey and where more than five birds of any other species are found dead in the same location.