Monitoring ongoing disease outbreaks in Europe: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI H5N8) is currently circulating in Europe, with outbreaks of disease in many countries (see Defra’s map of outbreaks at the bottom of this page). The disease has been identified in chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and game birds, as well as wild birds. Outbreaks in poultry and game birds are usually linked to direct or indirect contact with infected wild birds. There have been NO cases of Avian Influenza identified in domestic poultry, farmed ducks or geese in Scotland. On 23rd December, a wild peregrine falcon found in Dumfries and Galloway tested positive for H5N8 Avian Influenza, indicating the HPAI is present in wild birds in Scotland. Avian Influenza has been identified in England (wild bird, game bird and domestic poultry), Wales (wild bird and domestic poultry) and Northern Ireland (wild bird).


The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has updated the risk assessment for incursion of HPAI into the UK via wild bird movements. The risk of an new disease incursion via migratory wild birds is considered to be LOW. The risk of infection still being present in the UK, either circulating in non-migratory wild birds or present in the environment in some areas is  “MEDIUM”. The risk of exposure of domestic poultry to HPAI H5N8 is assessed as LOW dependent on the biosecurity and geographical region of the premises [28/04/2017]. EPIC has updated the risk assessment 'What is the risk of an outbreak (i.e. at least one infected premises) of Highly Pathogenic (HP) H5N8 Avian Influenza (AI) in domestic poultry or captive birds in Scotland through direct or indirect transmission from infected wild birds?" [It now also includes onward transmission to domestic poultry or captive birds via bird gatherings (i.e. markets, shows, fairs, exhibitions and other events) held in Scotland.] [05/05/2017]The risk to human health remains VERY LOW (see Public Health England )


Avian Influenza Prevention Zones were declared in ScotlandEngland and Wales on 6th December 2016. During this period keepers of poultry and other captive birds were required to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

From the 28th February 2017 until 30th April 2017 (Scotland and Wales) or 15th May 2017 (England) or  31st May 2017 (Northern Ireland) AI Prevention Zones regulations vary by country:

Scotland: Poultry keepers may let their birds out provided that they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place. From 30th April 2017 Prevention Zone restrictions were lifted. The Scottish Government has produced Scottish AI Prevention Zone FAQ’s and a checklist to assist with compliance. 

Wales: Poultry keepers may let their birds out provided that they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place. From 30th April 2017 Prevention Zone restrictions in will be lifted.  The Welsh Government has produced Welsh AI Prevention Zone self-assessment form and list of additional risk mitigation measures to assist with compliance.

England: Poultry keepers in England may let their birds out provided that they meet certain conditionsFrom 15th May 2017 Prevention Zone restrictions in will be lifted. Defra has produced English AI Prevention Zone guidance for keepers with 500 or less than birds to assist with compliance. Poultry keepers with more than 500 birds will be required to undertake extra biosecurity measures.

Markets, shows and other gatherings of poultry (including chicken, geese, ducks, pheasants, turkeys and guinea fowl) are banned in EnglandWales and Scotland from the 20th December 2016 until 15th May 2017. From 15 May, all poultry shows and bird gatherings will be permitted, subject to prior notification to Animal and Plant Health Agency and the conditions of the general licence (Scotland updated general licence and associated EPIC Veterinary risk assessment). 

Northern Ireland declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone and suspension of poultry gatherings from 23rd December 2016 has been extended until 11.59 on 16 March 2017. In Northern Ireland a new Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, which will be in place from 17th March until 31st May, provides keepers in all areas of Northern Ireland with the option to let their birds outside, subject to them applying additional biosecurity mitigation measures.

The public have also been asked to report any observations of wild bird deaths, especially those involving 5 or more birds of any species, and also where a single dead wild duck, goose, swan or gull is found (Defra helpline 03459 33 55 77).
EPIC scientists are working closely with Scottish Government to assist with contingency plans for Avian Influenza and other diseases. In particular, EPIC scientists are working on producing rapid risk assessments. Please visit our page on Avian Influenza to see our latest research.



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