ANIMAL health officials have issued a fresh warning after this season’s bird flu outbreak is the biggest the UK has ever seen.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency, which has been working at two Herefordshire farm over recent weeks after bird flu cases were found, issued a strong message to bird owners.

“This season’s avian influenza outbreak is the biggest the UK has seen,” the agency said.

“Anything that enters your birds’ housing could be a source of infection – your footwear, bedding, equipment, water, rodents, pet dogs and cats.”

It comes after Herefordshire was subjected to two huge control zones, on top of national measures, to stop the spread of bird flu after cases at two farms.

Both were in the Avara Foods supply chain, the company behind much of the nation’s poultry and the former Sun Valley Factory in Hereford.

The company said there were “no concerns about consequences for human health”, but the NHS said the H5N1 strain had several people had been infected around the world, leading to a number of deaths.

But it added that the strain did not infect people easily and was not usually spread from human to human.

But the Government said all birds at the chicken farm in Shobdon’s Ledicot Lane and the turkey farm near the river Wye in Clifford would be killed.

In the new warning, the UK’s chief vet warned poultry keepers to take urgent action now, or they would risk losing their flocks to bird flu.

The stark warning comes as the UK was facing its largest ever outbreak of bird flu with more than 60 cases confirmed across the country since the start of November.

To help slow the spread of disease, the Government introduced new housing measures last month which meant anyone who kept chickens, ducks, geese or any other birds were legally required to keep them indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures. Anyone who did not do this faced the disease killing their birds and being fined.


A warning sign for avian influenza (bird flu) in Barkby, Leicestershire. Picture date: Sunday December 12, 2021..

A warning sign for avian influenza (bird flu) in Barkby, Leicestershire. Picture date: Sunday December 12, 2021..


“Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months and other wildlife spread the disease so it is vital to not allow wild birds to mix with your chickens, ducks, geese or other birds,” a APHA spokesperson said.

“People can also spread the disease on their clothes and shoes so before going into bird enclosures you should wash your hands, and change or clean and disinfect your footwear.”

Chief veterinary officer

Christine Middlemiss said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease, including introducing housing measures.

“However we are seeing a growing number of bird flu cases both on commercial farms and in backyard birds right across the country.

“Many poultry keepers have excellent biosecurity standards but the number of cases we are seeing suggests that not enough is being done to keep bird flu out.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands you must take action now to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.

“Implementing scrupulous biosecurity has never been more critical.”