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Avian influenza - preventative measures

PUBLISHED: 15:05 21 September 2007 | UPDATED: 08:16 28 March 2014

Victoria Roberts BVSc MRCVS, Country Smallholding Vet's forum,  suggests preventive measures for Avian Influenza:

Suggested preventive measures for Avian Influenza:

• Poultry must be housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.

• Poultry must not be exposed to the faeces of wild birds or other material that might be contaminated with avian influenza by wild birds. Cover aviaries with UV stabilised polythene sheeting and a finer mesh netting for exposed side areas where the mesh is large to prevent wild birds entering.

• Domestic ducks and geese must be kept separate from other poultry birds.

• Birds at liberty, for example, peafowl, Guinea fowl, etc should be placed in a wild bird-proof enclosure, away from any contamination by wild bird faeces.

• Poultry must be fed and provided with drinking water indoors or under a shelter which denies wild birds access to the food or water supply.

• People other than keepers of the birds must be kept away from areas where susceptible birds are kept.

• The keeper of susceptible birds must take appropriate biosecurity measures in such areas and when entering and leaving such areas: for example, foot dips, clean clothing and hand washes.

• Birds moving into your collection from within the UK or imported from Europe should be isolated for 21 days before being released into the collection.

• Good records must be formulated for all your poultry. It’s sensible to permanently identify individual birds with either a closed ring (this has
to be placed when they’re young) or a tamper-proof wing tag or a tattoo. If vaccination of poultry is allowed at a future date, permanent marking will be mandatory.
Risk assessment:

1. Access – make a list of how you would negate the transfer of poultry faeces (where AI is concentrated) by providing separate footwear (store in a plastic dustbin for weather protection) which is only used in the bird pens, plus a foot dip with fresh disinfectant (Defra approved) in it. Prevent access by unauthorized persons.

2. Wild bird access – cover any aviary style pens or the roof of a run to keep out faeces of wild birds. This covering could be UV stabilised polytunnel polythene, weighted or battened down, or a tarpaulin, but make sure there is still sufficient ventilation. If it snows, a considerable weight may fall in quite a short time and remain on the aviary roof. We’ve found that a machine for vacuuming garden leaves can be used to blow snow from the roof and limit the extra weight. If snow settles on aviary wire, particularly if ice has already clogged the mesh, a pressure hose can effectively clear the wire and reduce the weight of snow.

Following a risk assessment, the Secretary of State can require vaccination of susceptible birds to reduce risk of transmission. Thus, in the event of an outbreak, there is a possibility that your collection of birds can be vaccinated, but this is at the discretion of the Secretary of State. Please note that it’s probable that the vaccine won’t protect all species.
Further points to consider, and prepare for, in the event of an AI outbreak:

• Anti-bacterial disinfectants are ineffective against a virus, such as avian influenza. Anti-bacterials should be part of the normal regime of maintaining good hygiene within aviaries. However, a virucidal, such as Virkon S, should be acquired and used in the event of any outbreak of viral disease in the vicinity. Brampton, the manufacturer of Virkon, says it can be used in many ways – as an aerial disinfectant, an aviary cleaner, a washing disinfectant, a water and feed bowl cleaner and as part of a daily maintenance programme.

Virkon is also manufactured in a pink powder form called Pet Virkon. When mixed with water, it makes a liquid that’s active and ready to use. It’s available from many farm supply stores or direct from Brampton (tel: 01480 492141 email:  Brampton@btconnect. com). As it can be used in the presence of birds, it’s extremely useful.

• A powerful garden spray might be a useful acquisition to use with disinfectants or virucidals, especially you need to spray the wheels of vehicles entering or leaving your premises.

• Ensure that bird faeces are stored separately from other dung/faeces.

• It might be worth considering getting masks for use with your birds that are capable of resisting the transfer of any virus, for example, nanomasks.

• If you’re using permanent identification for your birds (recommended) such as leg rings, provide your vet with this information, including the precautions that you’ve already taken. This might prove invaluable should an outbreak occur in the vicinity of your pens, since you should have the support of your veterinarian should a vaccination programme be appropriate for your birds.

• If you only have limited indoor facilities, prioritise now and plan which birds would occupy what indoor facilities you might have in case some need to be sacrificed during an avian flu outbreak. Discuss this with your vet, so you have their support.

• Prepare a list of all birds kept in outdoor enclosures that can’t be moved inside (for a period of a few weeks or longer) if needed in the near future (for well-being or other reasons) and may need to be vaccinated or housed in such a manner that contact with wild birds or wild bird faeces is not possible. This list, together with a map of the premises indicating where these birds are housed, should be made available to the veterinary authorities.

• Don’t consider importing live birds, and/or bird products from countries where AI has been discovered. The EU banned the import of live birds, and/or bird products from Russia, Kazakhstan and certain Asian countries in an earlier phase. This has been extended to Turkey and Romania in the meantime.

• Try to keep up-to-date with regulations within your own country – they can be changed or introduced very quickly to react to new circumstances as they arise.

If an outbreak occurs:

There are three zones involved: a statutory Defra “surveillance zone” (in the case of an outbreak of AI within 10km of your collection), a statutory Defra “protection zone” (for an outbreak within 3km of your collection), and finally, if the outbreak is within your own collection, “infected premises”.

Further information
For ongoing information on avian flu:

Defra helpline: 01224 711 072. www.defra.gov.uk
World Health Organisation: www.who.int

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