Bird flu warnings for West Northamptonshire amid UK's largest ever outbreak

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Keepers told to follow “scrupulous” safeguards to prevent disease spread

Bird keepers in West Northamptonshire are being warned they must follow “scrupulous” safeguards to prevent the danger of avian flu spreading.

Chief veterinary officers declared a country-wide prevention zone on Monday (October 17) amid the UK’s largest ever bird flu outbreak.

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The nearest recorded cases to Northampton so far have been in Grantham, Swindon and across East Anglia.

Bird keepers have been warned to be on alert for signs of avian fluBird keepers have been warned to be on alert for signs of avian flu
Bird keepers have been warned to be on alert for signs of avian flu

But Councillor David Smith, the local council cabinet member for community safety, said: “It is imperative that anyone who owns or works with birds reads the declaration and implements its instructions.

“This is not only to protect the wellbeing of your own flocks, but those of everyone in West Northamptonshire and beyond whose wellbeing and livelihoods rely on them.”

According to Government figures, there have been 44 cases of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in England since October 1, 2022.

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On Friday, there was a reminder to anyone who owns 50 or more birds that they must register their flock restrict access for non-essential people on their sites. People with smaller flocks can register voluntarily.

Workers would need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles would need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The Government stopped short, however, of asking all owners to keep birds inside — a measure which is already in place in the east.

The chief veterinary offices of England, Scotland and Wales issued a joint statement saying: “Winter brings an even more increased risk to flocks as migratory birds return to the UK. Scrupulous biosecurity and hygiene measures is the best form of defence.”

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The UK Health Security Agency says the risk to the general public’s health while bird flu poses a very low food safety risk — although the NHS warns some strains have infected humans in other parts of the world, leading to deaths.

Avian flu is spread by close contact with infected birds — dead or alive — including preparing infected poultry for cooking.

Symptoms can include high temperature, aching, diarrhoea and bleeding from the nose and gums.