Diseases

When there's talk of a disease outbreak it's only natural to worry about pets or livestock.

Find out where you can get the latest information, and what to do if you suspect that some animals you own or have seen may be infected.

General advice

  • If you see a wild bird that is sick and appears to have bird flu, avoid contact with the bird - including feathers and waste.
  • Seek advice from your vet
    If you are concerned about the health of your animals, you should always seek expert advice from your vet.
  • Keep up-to-date with Defra
    The latest information on disease outbreaks, including precautions to take and how to report disease, is available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). 

    Visit the Defra website
    Call the Defra Helpline: 03459 33 55 77
    Email: helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk
     
  • Contact us
    If you are worried about the health or welfare of some animals you have seen, call our cruelty line: 0300 1234 999.

Avian influenza (bird flu) advice for the public

Bird flu is a notifiable, infectious disease that affects both wild and kept poultry. The disease is taken very seriously as it's devastating to birds, spreads very fast and whilst some strains have the potential to jump from birds to humans, this is very rare.

On Wednesday 3 November 2021, the UK's devolved administrations made a decision to declare an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across the whole of the UK to help mitigate the risk of the disease spreading.

  • Avian influenza (bird flu) is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on: 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact: 0300 303 8268.
  • If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7). DO NOT TOUCH OR PICK UP any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

All bird keepers (whether you have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock) must keep a close watch on them for signs of disease and maintain good biosecurity at all times. This is especially relevant if your birds are in a Higher Risk Area (HRA). If you have any concerns about the health of your birds, seek prompt 
advice from your vet.

You should register your poultry, even if only kept as pets, so Defra can contact you during an outbreak. This is a legal requirement if you have 50 or more birds. Poultry includes chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigeon (bred for meat), partridge, quail, guinea fowl and pheasants.

If you should find a sick or injured bird, please call the RSPCA on 0300 1234999. Due to the potential risks to your own health and safety, we would advise you not to approach or handle the bird yourself. If you have already touched the bird, please wash your hands immediately, along with any surfaces you may have made contact with. We're working round the clock to provide our officers with the correct PPE and training as set out by recent government guidelines so they can respond as soon as possible.

For the latest information and advice, including how to keep your own poultry safe in England, please visit the Defra website.

For poultry keepers in Wales, please see the Welsh Government website.

In addition to the government advice, there is also a simple guide put together by us, Defra, the NFU and other organisations providing best practice advice to help backyard flock keepers to protect their birds from bird flu.

Keeping birds

It's a legal requirement for all bird keepers (whether they have commercial flocks, a few birds in a backyard flock or pet birds) to follow strict biosecurity measures. Keepers with more than 500 birds need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

The prevention zone means bird keepers must:

  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources.
  • Feed and water kept indoors or enclosed areas to discourage wild birds.
  • Minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures.
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy.
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.
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