Avian influenza confirmed by Defra at farm near Ross-on-Wye

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have confirmed there is avian influenza A(H5N1) in a small flock of chickens, ducks and geese at a farm near Ross-on-Wye.

Herefordshire Council has been liaising with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and there appears to be no wider risk, but bird keepers are being reminded that they must follow government requirements.

The council acted quickly as soon as receiving information from Defra. The result is a loss of livestock to the farmer, whose premises will undergo a total disinfection under Defra and APHA supervision.

Herefordshire Council is currently in the process of writing to or visiting every household within a three-kilometre protection zone of the affected premises, to ensure that poultry keepers are taking the necessary precautions in line with Defra guidance.

Dr James Chipwete, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with the UKHSA in the West Midlands, said:

“The A(H5N1) strain is highly pathogenic to poultry and other birds, which is why it important that poultry owners stick to the Defra guidance. While the risk to human health is considered very low, it is possible for humans to catch the virus through close contact with an infected bird, dead or alive. Therefore, it is very important that people do not touch birds infected with avian flu, their carcasses, droppings, bedding or eggs – and infection control measures may be necessary if they do.  

“As a precaution, the farm workers who have been in contact with the infected birds have been given a course of antiviral medication and are undergoing close monitoring for 10 days from last contact with infected birds.”

Marc Willimont, Head of Public Protection at Herefordshire Council, said:

“While any outbreak of avian flu is a concern, we do not expect this relatively minor incident to adversely affect others.

“I can reassure the public that we acted as soon as we were made aware of the incident by Defra and that we have followed all the government department’s guidelines to help minimise the risk of any potential spread of the virus in the surrounding area.

“Residents in Ross-on-Wye can expect to receive a letter with further details from the council within the next week. Other rural premises within the three-kilometre zone are likely to receive a visit to ensure all poultry keepers have put precautions in place and are complying with the government’s protection zone.”

Following a number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds across Great Britain, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across the whole of Great Britain, to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds. The Government has also introduced mandatory housing measures for all poultry and other captive birds to limit the spread of avian influenza in the UK. 

Anyone who keeps poultry or captive birds should also take extra precautions including keeping their birds indoors or taking appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds the RSPCA has provided a simple guide to help backyard flock keepers to protect their birds from bird flu. It is important to be vigilant for any signs of disease, if you are concerned about your birds’ health or suspect avian influenza, please contact your vet immediately.

You can check if your premises are within one of the zones on the APHA Interactive Disease Map.

You an also find out more information on our avian flu pages.

Bird keepers should report any suspicion of disease to Animal and Plant Health Agency on: 03000 200 301.

We,  and the UKHSA want to remind residents not to touch or pick up any dead or sick birds. If you find dead swans, geese, ducks or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

More information on bird flu is available on the NHS website.

Published: 24th January 2022