The avian influenza prevention zone covering Scotland has been lifted.
Avian influenza is an infections virus carried by wild birds. The H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza has been circulating in Europe since October 2016. Ten cases in captive birds have been confirmed in UK (none of which were in Scotland).
On 30 April, the Scottish Government lifted the restriction placed in December, which required bird keepers in all areas of Scotland to put in place enhanced biosecurity measures before letting their birds outside.
The ban on shows and gatherings of poultry, waterfowl and game birds will remain in force until 15 May, when a new general licence will come into force. 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.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: “This will be welcome news for many keepers who have opted to keep their birds indoors to protect them from a seasonally increased risk from highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8. This decision has been made following the recent veterinary risk assessment concluding that the risk of avian influenza incursion to poultry and captive birds in Scotland had decreased to low.
“This has been a testing time for all of us, and I would like to thank all bird keepers in Scotland for their co-operation and vigilance. Your positive and committed response has helped us reach this point.”
Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “It is a relief to see that the risk of HPAI H5N8 in Scotland has reduced, but this does not mean we should be complacent; the risk of avian influenza has not disappeared. It is essential that bird keepers maintain effective biosecurity year-round, not just when a prevention zone is in place. All bird keepers should consider maintaining excellent biosecurity practices like washing boots and equipment with approved disinfectant, implementing effective rodent control, minimizing unnecessary visitors and reducing their flock’s contact with wild birds.
“I would also strongly urge businesses to reassess their contingency plans, given the new perspective this season’s outbreaks of H5N8 provides. Practical advice about their specific arrangements should be sought from their private vets, in consultation with their local Animal Plant and Health Agency office.”
Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must report it to their local Animal Plant & Health Agency office.
The latest risk assessment for an incursion of HPAI H5N8 in domestic and captive birds in Scotland, has concluded that the risk is LOW, a reduction from the previous risk level which was assessed as MEDIUM.
Wild Bird Surveillance figures show that since 1 December 2016, only one case of HPAI H5N8 has been identified in Scotland (a wild peregrine falcon found on 9 December).
More information about Avian Influenza, the Prevention Zone and bird gatherings - including biosecurity guidance - is available from the Scottish Government website.