All bird keepers, from poultry farmers to families with a few chickens, have been ordered to house their animals for a month to protect the UK from a virulent outbreak of avian flu on mainland Europe.
The government chief vet, Nigel Gibbens, has declared a “prevention zone” for England that requires commercial and individual bird keepers to keep their birds inside for 30 days or take steps to separate them from wild birds.
The order, which was texted to poultry farmers on Tuesday, comes after a type of highly pathogenic avian flu, H5N8, was found in dead wild birds and some farm birds across Europe.
“The risk that we are trying to prevent is to our British poultry flock … to make sure these birds are protected against disease,” Gibbens said.
He added: “Everybody should do what they can. Pet bird keepers should do their best and take sensible measures to separate them from wild birds, whilst looking after their welfare. I don’t want people putting them in a box in the dark and keeping them there for weeks on end.”
Similar restrictions have been imposed in France after the detection of bird flu in farms in the south-west of the country and in wild ducks in northern France.
The H5N8 strain of bird flu has not been detected on British farms. Gibbens said that if it was, all the birds in the infected flock would have to be slaughtered, under disease control requirements.
Gibbens also urged farmers to take extra measures such as disinfecting clothing and equipment, and making sure feed and water was not accessible to wild birds to prevent infection.
“I ought to emphasise that this disease does get into house birds. So the other important thing for farmers to do is increase and maintain their bio-security so disease isn’t carried into houses where birds are housed.”
Public Health England (PHE) said the threat to humans from the bird flu strain remained very low.
Gibbens warned that the 30-day order might have to be extended. He said: “We will see how this threat of disease develops during the year. Migration has not yet quite finished; it is possible that disease may circulate in our domestic wild birds as well. We will keep this under review, look at whether it is being effective, look at how well it is being complied with and then take a considered view after 30 days.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it had increased its surveillance for the disease. In a statement, Gibbens added: “While no cases have been found in the UK, and PHE advises the public health threat is low, we are closely monitoring the situation across Europe and have scaled up surveillance in response to the heightened risk.”
Poultry keepers are being advised to be vigilant for signs of bird flu and to call their vet promptly if they have any concerns.
Members of the public are also being asked to report cases of dead wild waterfowl such as swans, geese, ducks and gulls, or five or more dead birds of other species to Defra.
WHO accused Tanzania of hiding information on Ebola victims
Ebola virus has cause major loss of life and socioeconomic disruption in Africa.
The number of cases has began to decline gradually, following the commitment of substantial international resources.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has rebuked Tanzania for failing to provide information about possible Ebola virus infections.
The WHO said it had learned of one suspected fatal case in Dar es Salaam and two others but, despite repeated requests, was given no information
Tanzania has said it has no suspected or confirmed cases.
The latest outbreak has killed more than 2,000 in eastern DR Congo, with Uganda battling to stop any spread.
Tunisia: former President Ben Ali confirmed dead
All time, former Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has died in exile aged 83, his family says.
Ben Ali led the country for 30years and was credited with delivering stability and some economic prosperity.
But he received widespread criticism for suppressing political freedoms and for widespread corruption.
In 2011, he was forced from office following mass street protests. This triggered a wave of similar uprisings across the Arab world.
At least half a dozen countries in the region saw their president fall or conflicts break out in the wake of the former Tunisian leader’s downfall, in what became known as the Arab Spring.