BIRD keepers in Herefordshire are being warned to be vigilant amid fears that a bird flu outbreak in England could spread.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was put in place across the whole of England following several confirmed cases among wild and commercial birds.

The zone came into force at 5pm on Friday, November 5, and means it is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict measures.

Keepers with more than 500 birds will need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites.

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

Backyard owners with smaller numbers of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese must also take steps to limit the risk of the disease spreading to their animals.

Avian influenza circulates naturally in wild birds and when they migrate to the UK from mainland Europe over the winter, they can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.

Councillor Ange Tyler, cabinet member for housing, regulatory services and community safety said: "Herefordshire Council would like any keepers of poultry and captive birds in the county to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds.

"If you have any concerns, please seek prompt advice from your vet, and help to prevent avian flu by following the government advice and maintaining good biosecurity on your premises."

The zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review as part of our work to monitor the threat of bird flu, she said.

The UK health agencies advise that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the UK food standards agencies advise that bird flu poses a very low food safety risk.

Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Bird keepers should visit for full details on the prevention zone.

Poultry keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.